The topic of this article is all about creating an effective voice of the customer (VOC) program. I’m going to show you some effective strategies for implementing an effective VOC program in a few succinct steps, focusing specifically on:
- Challenges of VOC programs
- Benefits of VOC programs
- What is a VOC program?
- Why listening is important when– collecting customer feedback
- Why sharing your feedback with your team is essential
- Methods for acting and implementing feedback
- Key takeaways
About me and Easyship
The most crucial thing to know about me is, customer success is pretty much my life. It’s all I think about! I like to think it’s the same at Easyship. We’re a shipping app that powers eCommerce merchants to scale globally.
I’m going to show you how we’ve effectively utilized a voice-of-customer program to make customer feedback an integral part of our organization.
In this article, we’re gonna look at how this program can benefit your organization. But what problems can it help to resolve specifically?
Well, let’s outline them below. 👇
Challenges of voice of the customer programs
Firstly, we don’t receive a lot of feedback on new features. This is a very common complaint from the product team: How do we know if we’re addressing customer pain points without feedback?
Or, sometimes we lack inspiration for new features. Again, this goes hand-in-hand with neglecting the voice of the customer. We draw inspiration from our customer’s needs. And without feedback, you’re gonna run out of gas pretty soon.
Sometimes we launch features, and we don't know what the ROI of that feature is. In many cases, return on investment is a great indication of whether the feature truly has an effective use case or whether it’s just filler. Measuring ROI can actually help you to trim the fat!
There are times when we have poor innovation on existing features, or we don't improve or renew them over time. In customer success, we always need to have our finger on the pulse of our customer’s needs. A big part of this is recognizing that customers’ needs aren’t static – and we shouldn’t be either.
If features don’t address the customer’s needs, they become just that: features. But we want to make them an integral part of the customer experience.
Benefits of VOC programs
So, let's look into the hard facts on what an effective program can do for the bottom line. These benefits have been proven by actual research:
- Increases upselling and cross-selling by 15-20%.
- Improves customer experience.
- Drives higher customer retention rates.
- Helps to decrease customer service costs.
- Spurs more referrals and positive word of mouth.
Okay, so I know what you’re thinking…
What is ‘the program’?
As Gainsight defines it, it's really the process of gathering and understanding customer expectations. It’s about understanding preferences and striving to improve the product and customer experience. In a nutshell, it's basically a way to drive sales and product innovation through customer feedback.
There are three main components to this program. I’m going to break them down below. 👇
Listen to your customers
Sometimes at Easyship, we have focus groups with specific personas or segments of clients when we're launching a new feature we know they might be interested in. We reach out to those clients and have a little focus group with them to identify needs and feedback early on in the process.
What is one of the key problems with gathering feedback from customers? They're often reluctant, to be honest. A survey is a great opportunity to gather candid feedback anonymously. They also draw customer attention to specific areas of your organization they might not have thought about until they see it in the survey.
Customer advisory boards
What’s the added appeal of this besides gathering feedback? Customers feel valued. They feel like a vital piece of the organization. And they are, of course! It's an exclusive membership that you can share with your clients.
Listen to your employees
Customer success and customer service
These can sometimes be the best source of feedback from clients. Sometimes you have plenty of feedback, more feedback than you know what to do with. And not all of that feedback is going to be right, useful, or in context. What’s great about CS? They have the ability to filter that feedback and put it into context.
That takes me to my next point. It’s not enough to just have feedback, you have to have employees that can sort through that feedback and put it into context. There are two things you need to educate them on: effectiveness and awareness of features, and indirect feedback:
1. Effectiveness and awareness of features
What’s the good in having plenty of features if customers can’t locate them? Do they understand how to use them? These are normally two very common feedback areas that people in sales and CS can implement.
2. Indirect feedback
This is anything that you can see through usage data. This is something that Netflix is very big on – what films trend most, what films people watch the most, etc. In the SaaS space, this can be pages or features where customers spend a lot of time. This can also be a hint of a feature that is causing a client's problems.
Once you have collected this feedback, who do you share with, and how?
The first thing to do when you have collected your feedback is to centralize it. A mistake that I see a lot is people collect a lot of feedback through different channels, but then they’re not able to make sense of it, or to analyze it.
People don't share feedback if you don't tell them what you're going to do with it and how feedback is going to help them deliver outcomes
Explain to whoever’s collecting the feedback, be it the customer or employee, what you do with it.
Educate employees on how they should submit feedback; a lot of people don’t explain to employees what the real impact of a feature is. Without this education, employees are unable to interpret the feedback correctly. They’re not able to assess from the feedback whether features are meeting the needs they are designed for.
- What’s the ROI?
- What’s the business impact?
- How do you articulate how the feature can help the team or the business?
You need to share how you can improve the awareness of existing features or the effectiveness of new features that you have launched.
So, what you see here is basically a forum and it gives you an idea of the fields that you can add to whatever you're using to collect feedback from customers. This is what I mean by centralization. It’s a board where all the feedback is logged in the form.
Here, employees can log all feedback so that it can be shared with others and can build on ideas through commenting on it. If a feature is linked to a piece of feedback that a client gave, we can notify those clients whenever we release that feature.
It's a really strong and easy way for our product team to understand what features are popular, and what features are being requested by a lot of users.
You’ve received this feedback, you’ve shared it, but how do you act on it?
Transparency is key. Clients will stop sharing feedback with you if you can’t action it properly. You need to create visibility for the progress on those features, or requests, whether it's internal or external. You can create product boards, like the one that I just showed you above, either internal or external
This can really give clients a snapshot of what's going on with their ideas. It’s proof that a customer’s ideas are actually important.
The product team receives dozens and sometimes hundreds of feature suggestions and ideas. You need to find a way to prioritize high urgency over low urgency features. Some ideas that could be really crucial might end up getting buried under a pile of low-urgency ideas if you don’t find a way to effectively prioritize.
A client is more likely to offer feedback again unless you acknowledge and reinforce whoever gives that feedback. Showcase the impact that their feature ideas are having.
First off, if somebody's suggesting a feature when it goes live, let them know that a feature is live. Find a way to celebrate and let customers know how the features are helping your business grow. Let them know how many customers have adopted that feature. Be specific. Let clients know how specific ideas are having specific outcomes.
1. Can customer success drive impact with a public roadmap?
There are great SaaS companies like HubSpot, for instance, which, I don't think, have a public product roadmap, but they have a product roadmap blog. External product roadmaps are great because they create transparency.
The only thing you really need is somebody to monitor it because it can become a toxic environment. It’s a blog, so people can post whatever they want. But certainly, CS can drive impact with a public roadmap. I think that the main benefit for CS is that clients can ask us all the time about feature releases.
It leads to us becoming more proactive and it puts the customer in the driver's seat, which is obviously always a major goal with CS.
2. How can we help our minority customers? Put their feedback across and get adopted?
The key here is ROI. You may say it's a smaller customer number, but the ocean is made of drops, right? So maybe one customer wants something, and it’s a big demand, but it’s just them that wants it. Is it really worth the investment?
My suggestion would be to try and really focus on this process of logging your requests and putting them on as on aboard. Know where the clients are interested and quantify the ROI size. Look at the revenue target you use for those clients. And then you can quantify what the expected ROI would be and how that feature would benefit a segment of clients.
3. Do you time surveys at particular points in the customer journey based on business milestones?
So, we try not to be too trigger-happy with surveys. We try to identify particular segments of clients. For instance, whenever we release a feature, we have a population or a segment that we think is going to be really interested in that feature.
We send surveys to those customers that adopt a feature to collect feedback. If they don't have the feature we send out surveys to find out whether they’re aware of the feature. So, that way we can engage customers who might have simply missed a feature they’re interested in.
To wrap up…
The bottom line is, the voice of the customer isn’t just a fluffy term to make your organization sound friendlier. The ultimate outcome of any feature is to address a real need in the life of your customer. Without feedback, how can you judge this? If you can’t adapt to customer needs, your features are going to become redundant.
But having feedback is not enough.
What do you do with it?
How do you educate your team to accurately interpret and action feedback?
Thirdly, you need to prioritize. The customer is always right can seem like an antiquated term nowadays. You have to be able to filter the good ideas from the bad, the high urgency from the low.
Finally, have fun! 🙌