4 Steps to Build a Solid Voice of Customer Strategy
To create products people want to use, you can’t just gather data—you’ve got to understand it.
According to Gartner, 95% of orgs collect user data, but only 10% actually use it to improve CX. The best way to put your data to use? Build a voice of customer (VoC) strategy.
By creating a VoC strategy, you’ll understand your data and your users. Instead of capturing VoC data only to forget about it, you’ll have a plan of action: harness it to create great products and foster a loyal and happy customer base. Our guide to building a voice of customer strategy will help you do just that.
What is a Voice of Customer Strategy?
A VoC strategy involves the processes of gathering and acting on feedback from your users. It helps you understand what your users want, what's important to them, and what they need to do their best work. Armed with this information, you can develop your best products—ones that are truly useful to your customers and solve their greatest frustrations.
Benefits of a Voice of the Customer Program
We’ve all been there before: the way a customer uses your product doesn’t exactly align with your expectations. In fact, it may be totally off-base. Even if you’re an industry expert, there’s often a difference between the way you expect users to interact with your product and the way they actually do. A VoC program will help you bridge this knowledge gap. The program also provides a few extra benefits, like:
- Delivering value faster. VoC strategy is based on a customer-centric approach, which offers valuable insights to help you validate and iterate quickly and effectively. Whether you’re addressing customer needs by tweaking a feature or releasing an entirely new product, you can do it without second-guessing the value it will bring to your users.
- Creating stronger customer relationships. When you collect customer feedback and use it to build products that your users love, you also build customer loyalty. When your customer base can see your dedication to creating solutions to their problems, they’ll reward you by acting as your cheerleaders. Bonus? Improved customer retention. You’ll also lay the groundwork for establishing a strong customer advisory board.
- Building empathy for your customers. Good product development doesn’t happen in a vacuum. By asking users to share their experiences, you'll foster a sense of empathy for their needs. This empathy ultimately creates a better customer experience.
- Pinpointing industry trends (early). A VoC program helps you uncover industry trends and external factors that may impact usage as they pop up. When you’re aware of these shifts early, you can adjust your products proactively and stay ahead of your competitors.
- Getting your teams aligned toward common goals. Creating a VoC program is an opportunity to keep your teams on the same page and work toward common goals.
- Developing a lasting product-market fit. Staying on top of user feedback means creating useful products today, and maintaining that product-market fit over time with a feedback-based product-market-fit framework.
To implement an effective user feedback strategy, we recommend following four steps.
1. Get Team Buy-In
Even if your VoC program mainly involves product development and customer support teams, it's crucial to rally all key stakeholders behind your strategy. Why? User feedback has a trickle-down effect. For example:
- Marketing might use feedback to adjust promotional messaging and positioning.
- Sales teams may shift their conversations based on new pain points and the features that solve those problems.
- Developers may see opportunities to address customer needs early on.
User feedback impacts every team in your organization. The more people who have access to it (and the more who understand your VoC strategy), the better. When every team is aware of your goals and challenges, they can tackle them collaboratively.
Taking time to make sure every team is aligned will also help you keep user interactions consistent across all customer-facing departments. If everyone knows what users think of your product, they can work together with a customer-centric focus.
2. Choose Your Feedback Channels (and Start Data Collection)
While it feels like there are infinite customer feedback options out there, they all boil down to three basic categories: direct, indirect, and inferred feedback. Keep in mind, there isn’t one “perfect” methodology for collecting feedback. Each feedback source comes with its own strengths and limitations.
That's why we recommend keeping your feedback channels diverse. By looking at user feedback and the customer journey from multiple angles, you’ll capture the voice of the customer and get a balanced, big-picture perspective.
Direct Feedback Channels
Direct feedback is given when you ask your users questions. It requires the most up-front work and serves as a useful feedback source when you need straightforward answers from customers. Popular sources of direct feedback include:
Customer surveys: Customer surveys are ideal for quantitative feedback and routine check-ins on customer satisfaction. Try including feedback forms or net promoter score (NPS) surveys throughout your customer’s journey—like after onboarding or closing a support ticket. at the end of emails. Or, consider using in-app feedback to capture user thoughts as they work with your product. Other helpful surveys include customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys and customer effort scores (CES).
Customer advisory boards: Customer advisory boards are optimal when you need expert feedback. Think of these boards like your A-Team—call on power users who use your product often and are well-versed in the industry you serve. Bonus: advisory board members are usually great candidates for beta testers.
Beta tests: Beta tests are the perfect choice when you want feedback on your latest product ideas and iterations during your product development cycle. We find that including customer feedback at every phase of the development process is crucial to building tools users love. Use beta testing to learn what works before you launch.
Focus groups: Focus groups are the way to go when you need to collect candid, unpolished feedback. A group conversation enables users to build off of other users' experiences, so you can easily get a sense of what works and what doesn’t.
1:1 Customer interviews: 1:1 Customer interviews are helpful when you need in-depth, granular feedback. This type of feedback is excellent for helping you optimize customer tools and features and seeing how users work. During the interview, ask your user to walk you through workflows to see how they use your product in real time. Stuck trying to figure out the right questions to ask? Check out our favorite open-ended questions.
Indirect Feedback Channels
Indirect feedback is unsolicited. Sometimes it’s given straight to your organization (via comments on a customer service phone call, for example), and other times it’s shared elsewhere, like on social media. Indirect sources of feedback are excellent at shedding light on the bigger context behind user experiences.
Examples of indirect feedback include:
- Online reviews and ratings. Check Google, Yelp, Reddit, and TrustPilot.
- Social media comments and DMs. Look for specific feedback, requests, and ideas.
- Community forums. Keep an eye on industry-specific forums. A tool like IFTTT sends an alert every time your company is mentioned on Reddit.
- Customer phone calls or Zoom recordings. Make sure your customer-facing teams are equipped to save feedback right after a call.
- Emails. Review conversations with your customer support or sales teams.
- Messaging and SMS text messages. Check user messages for comments and ideas.
- Chatbot conversations. Consider tapping into stored conversations for feedback.
Indirect feedback sources like voice and text interactions are growing in popularity—so don’t skip out on them. In fact, a recent study by Gartner predicts that 60% of orgs with voice of customer programs will include indirect feedback in their voice of customer strategy by 2025.
Inferred Feedback Channels
Inferred feedback blends product data and customer behavior to help you learn about user needs. It's unique in that it reveals what customers actually do, versus what they say.
For example, you might start with a product metric, like:
- Frequency of use per feature
- Time spent on each feature
- Session lengths
- Number of sessions
- Scroll depth
Then, combine your chosen metric with user information, such as:
- Adoption rate
- Site interactions
- App usage data
- Customer support tickets
When you blend these different data sources, you can look beyond the numbers and uncover the story behind your users’ experiences.
Let’s say you want to investigate which features are most valuable to your users. If you pull up feature usage data and compare it to data from customer support tickets, you might learn that users abandoned a feature after consistently hitting technical snags. From there, you can survey users or opt to update or remove the feature.
3. Organize, Analyze, and Act on Feedback
Now that you've got your data together, you need a system for organizing and analyzing it. You could spend time manually scrolling through spreadsheets, trying to extract meaningful feedback—but your time is valuable. We recommend using a feedback tool that can help you collect, analyze, and make sense of your customer feedback quickly.
Start by looking for trends in your data. Are several users with high customer lifetime value (CLV) requesting a similar feature? Add the idea to your priority list. Does in-app feedback show user frustration in one area of your platform? Ask your developers for help.
Dig into the data to tease out common ideas and requests, then make a list of your top contenders. If you struggle to prioritize feedback, try running ideas through the ICE scoring system:
- Impact: Is this fix likely to have a significant positive impact on your users?
- Confidence: Are you confident in your ability to address this request now?
- Ease: Will this be a quick fix, or will it require a lot of effort from your team?
Once you’ve created a short list of features and fixes, start brainstorming and validating solutions. Armed with organized data, you can work on product features and iterations confidently, knowing your choices are driven by the people you serve.
4. Prioritize Follow-Up
Effective follow-up isn’t just a good product development practice—it creates an emotional connection that builds customer loyalty.
When you follow up on feedback, you show customers you care about their experiences. These follow-up guidelines will help you nurture customer relationships and encourage continued feedback:
- Act quickly. Even if you can't provide a detailed follow-up just yet, acknowledge the feedback and thank your users for sharing. Let them know you're looking into their suggestion or comment.
- Outline what's next. If you're considering a feature request, say so. Or, if a feature isn't viable, let users know. Don't offer any concrete dates or deadlines—the main idea is to let customers know what you are and aren't pursuing.
- Stay in touch. Update users as you make progress toward requested features, and send out alerts when they're officially launched. Check in periodically to get feedback on your solutions.
Simplify Your Voice of Customer Strategy with UserVoice
At UserVoice, we believe customers are your most powerful asset. When you understand and act on customer feedback, it allows you to create products your users love. We designed our feedback platform to simplify every step of your voice of customer program, from getting your team aligned to managing user follow-ups.
Our platform helps you collect and organize voice of the customer data without the chaos. Centralize data from multiple sources and get a clear picture of what matters to your users—fast.
Drive internal alignment by sharing your roadmap and internal updates across teams. Listen to users, follow up on requests, validate your ideas, and boost your product value—all in one place.
Don’t take it from us. Try it out for yourself! Sign up for a free trial of UserVoice today.