Digital Marketing Best Practices: Voice of the Customer

by Dec 16, 2020

Unpacking VOC

What is VOC? Voice of the Customer (VOC) is a marketing research technique used to solicit feedback from customers to determine perceptions, needs, and expectations.

When is VOC necessary?

  • Product development project
  • As a next step after completing an R&D project
  • As part of a general market assessment of the company or brand.

VOC data is very useful, but can be cumbersome and costly if not conducted properly or interpreted correctly.

How Do We Do It?

VOC is one of those things that you have to begin your planning with the end in mind. VOC is a flexible tool which can take on various forms of execution. The methodology you select depends on your timeframe and your resources.

Customer Interviews

  • One-on-One. Pre-COVID, customer interviews were conducted at the customer site, the benefit being that insights could be gleaned by observing the customer in their natural environment. In the midst of the pandemic, most, if not all, VOC interviews are conducted over the phone or the internet. In-person VOC would include travel and expenses and would therefore be the costliest.  While online interviews dramatically reduce the cost of this methodology, remember to consider any incentives you provide the customer in return for their time. The incentives don’t have to be dramatic; they just have to be thoughtful.  
  • Focus Groups. Mass in-person customer interviews in the form of focus groups were popular because they included the ability to observe the effects of group dynamics within the sample group.  Focus groups are very expensive and best conducted by a professional research organization who can facilitate the interactions. During the pandemic, these most likely have to be conducted remotely using a video call platform.

Digital Customer Surveys

  • Advantages. Digital surveys are easy to distribute and share with a wide audience.  This makes it possible (in principle) to get enough responses for statistical significance.
  • Disadvantages. Finding the right large audience can often be challenging unless your customer base is large enough to survey. The survey return rate for an engaged customer base can vary from 5%-30% and can be as low as 1% or less for a disengaged audience.

How to Conduct a Survey

  • Determine a customer sample size which will be statistically significant
  • If you are using an incentive, make sure it works for all geographic regions
  • Choose your market segmentation criteria
  • Determine geographic or other qualifiers
  • Create your digital survey (shoot for 2-5 min. long)
  • Distribute the survey link (use channels such as opted-in email lists (owned or rented) and social media)
  • Collect, analyze, and report the results.

Other Sources of Customer Opinions

Social listening, website pattern monitoring, and single question polls are additional ways of monitoring customer sentiment. These are ongoing and can be integrated as part of your overall digital marketing program. These augment, rather than replace, your VOC data, which provides deeper insight. VOC can answer a relatively narrow set of questions, as in the case of a product development effort, or a broad set of questions, as in the case of a general marketing review or brand perception project.

What to Ask

Remember, we said VOC planning begins with the end in mind, and this also applies to the construction of the interview or survey questions. Draft your questions and review the answers you expect. Are they aligned with your expectations, and are they what you need to confirm or deny your hypothesis of the situation? If not, re-consider the questions. Here are some things to consider:

Questions to collect demographic informationThis info will help identify your current demographic, and subsequent interviews and surveys will track demographic trends. Is your demographic your target demographic?
Open-ended questions (interviews)They go beyond simple yes or no responses, and are perfect to elicit qualitative information in interviews
Closed-ended or multiple-choice questions in surveysThough not as rich in information, they are easier to answer, tabulate and narrow choices when you have a clearly defined set of variables.
Contact information request and permissionsDon’t ask for too much — a name and an email are enough to continue the conversation. Add opt-in permission for your newsletter, ecommerce specials, or other updates that will benefit the customer as well as your company.

It’s Not Just About the Customer

Remember to include another valuable customer data source — your own employees. Voice-of-the-Employee (VOE) could include those from Customer Service, Sales, Service, and Marketing whose customer-facing roles give them the customer intimacy which is invaluable to your research efforts.

What Do We Do Now?

Once your customer responses are collected, collated and analyzed you have a choice: Do you act on the data, do you discount the data and go with your instincts, or do you compromise with something in between? If you don’t believe what your customers are telling you, you need to get closer to them. Typically, we discount customer responses by over-rationalizing with statements like, “I can see they said this, but they actually meant this.” If you find yourself in this situation, get back in touch with some respondents to clarify what they said rather than jumping to conclusions or over-rationalizing.

We help our clients get voice of the customer data as part of our discovery process. Contact us for a 30-minute consultation.


FounderTraction Blog – VOC Listening to Voice of the Customer (VoC) | FounderTraction

Voice of the Customer Methodologies 12 Voice of the Customer Methodologies To Generate a Goldmine of Customer Feedback (

<a href="" target="_self">Gerry Broski</a>

Gerry Broski

Born in Cleveland Ohio, Gerry has a long and colorful career working in marketing, sales and product management for tech-driven companies. He’s worked with teams and managed projects and people to successfully develop new products, penetrate new markets and generate positive results. Creative, inquisitive, and an avid reader, Gerry is now focused on using his skills and experience to help others navigate the wild world of digital marketing as a member of the FounderTraction Team.

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