Strategy and InnovationResearch and Insights

Hearing and Responding to the Voice of the Customer (VoC)

At every touchpoint, both online and offline, companies have the opportunity to measure up to their customers’ expectations. It may be daunting to consider how often customers are evaluating brands and how this impacts their brand loyalty, but when awareness of and access to other options are so prevalent, it’s crucial to ensure that you are always meeting or exceeding customer expectations.

Customer expectations change frequently as industries evolve, so it’s important for companies to have an established process to understand those expectations and deliver experiences that meet and exceed them. This becomes even more important when consumers need to navigate new circumstances or adjust to a new enviornment, which we are all doing right now as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even beyond the pandemic, many customers will likely emerge with new habits and new expectations of companies, so it wil be important for brands to be able to quickly pivot to meet these expectations.

Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a process by which a company learns about and seeks to gain a comprehensive understanding of customer expectations, needs, and opinions to determine if and how the customer experience they are delivering is meeting those expectations.

Methods for VoC include gathering customer data and feedback from available channels by:

  • Evaluating Net Promoter Score (NPS) and/or CSAT Scores
  • Conducting user-centered research
  • Administering customer surveys
  • Listening on social channels such as Facebook and Twitter
  • Reading reviews on Google or Yelp

These are key components to gathering feedback, but it is also important during this process for organizations to self-evaluate and understand why the experience they’re providing does or does not meet expectations.

The first step to self-evaluation is to take a closer look at what you are promising your customers. Your brand promise establishes what customers can expect from you, now and into the future.

Take Nike, for example. Nike’s brand promise is “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. If you have a body, you’re an athlete.”

What are the expectations set by that promise? Let’s break it down:

  • Inspiration: To fulfill this part of the promise, Nike must deliver experiences that make their customers feel certain emotions, and spark action with specific convictions.

  • Innovation: Innovating is bringing forward new methods, ideas, or products to solve a problem — Nike’s experiences can never be stagnant, and they must always be delivering something new.

  • To every athlete in the world (for everyone with a body): With this part of the promise, Nike essentially promises global accessibility: products and experiences that are not limited by an individual’s location or able-bodiedness.

Nike’s promise to inspire lends itself to experiences like the “Never Stop Winning” advertisement and product line that they released moments after the U.S. Women’s National Team won the 2019 FIFA World Cup. Nike’s customers expect to be inspired, and they embrace the company’s alignment with the women’s soccer team that has long been engaged in fights for social issues such as gender discrimination and equal pay, both on and off the field.

Nike’s alignment with its customers’ expectations has paid off for the business — the U.S. Women’s home jersey became the highest selling soccer jersey on in June 2019, and sales of women’s apparel around the 2019 Women’s World Cup grew by over 150% compared to 2015.

There are additional expectations set by their promise, such as the expectation for accessibility. Nike states that, “If you have a body, you’re an athlete,” so in order to fulfill this part of the promise, they have designed shoes with an inclusive style that can be taken on and off easily.

Make a Promise

Some CX professionals blow off brand promise as fancy marketing speak. Certainly, there are companies and instances where a brand makes big, bold promises and then doesn’t do the work to ensure those promises pay off.

However, the solution to this is not to avoid making a promise altogether. The lack of a promise makes it nearly impossible to build a foundation of trust. Additionally, the lack of promise to the customer opens the door for frustration among employees constantly trying to figure out what behaviors are optimal or even permitted. When you fail to make a promise to your customers, you are being held to a set of expectations that you didn’t influence (often set by your competition). How difficult is it for your employees to deliver an experience that aligns with a customer expectation they don’t know exists?

Your brand promise does not have to be as politicized or as wide-ranging as Nike’s, but it does have to be a commitment to fulfill certain expectations for your customer. As you develop your VoC program, your brand promise can become a compass to guide your understanding of the data and feedback you gather from your customers.

Best Practices for Your VoC Program

When learning about the voice of teh customer and building expectations around your brand promise, keep these best practices in mind.

Make Promises You Can Keep

You likely already have a brand promise in place — break it down by the expectations your customers have of you because of your promise. Are there expectations woven into your promise that you can’t meet? Are the experiences you are delivering consistent with what you have promised? Additionally, have you made realistic and transparent promises to your customers in your response to the COVID-19 pandemic? This is particularly important as customer expectations and needs shift rapidly.

Connect Data Across Channels

Research has shown that up to 72% of consumers want to connect with brands across multiple channels. It’s critical that you not only have these channels available, but also tools in place to track the customer journey across these channels. An integrated database that connects with all of your different channels can provide a single source of truth, and a singular view of the customer. You may have separate communications and digital teams, but your customer sees your brand as one, so they expect their experience to be seamless across channels.

Identify Project Owners, but Socialize Your Efforts

There may be various customer-facing teams at your organization responsible for gathering and synthesizing customer data, and VoC is traditionally a marketing-driven initiative. It is important to determine a project owner for your VoC program, but perhaps just as important to socialize the program beyond marketing and customer service. Your employees should already be familiar with your brand promise — provide them with the additional context of how a VoC initiative will help the organization fulfill its brand promise, and how employees can align to this effort.

Determine Outcome Measures in Advance

As with any initiative, how you measure will drive downstream activity, because your employees are motivated by what they are measured on. When measuring the success of your VoC program, avoid focusing on revenue alone. Start with KPIs such as key page visits, conversion rate, cart abandonment rate, NPS, and Customer Effort Score. With a focus on the customer journey, you will have a better sense of how to create value for your customers, and revenue will be the by-product making the right decisions for your customers.

Download the Customer Experience Insights Report below for more strategies on making a promise to your customers and keeping it.

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