VoC: Voice of the Customer
An important step in the product development or product marketing process involves obtaining Voice of the Customer (VoC), either by survey, interview, or observation. Irrespective of the format, your goal is to understand the reason your customer prefers or will prefer, your product or service. VoC is critical to the success of a product because customer feedback forms the basis of feature-set identification and use-case scenarios. Follow the VoC best practices below to get the most valuable information from your customers.
Stage Your VoC
VoC can be conducted in various stages:
- In initial development to validate product specifications and design requirements
- In prototype stages to interact with the physical product (if there is one)
- In beta testing to ensure that the product is meeting customers’ expectations.
It’s important to incorporate customer feedback from current products if the new product is a replacement and to include feedback on competitive products if you are trying to hit a target that surpasses competitive offerings.
Creating Your Survey
Creating surveys is an art and a science. You want to develop your questions to get honest, unbiased answers which will objectively help you build your new product, or validate your concerns and assumptions. The flow of questions, the amount and type of background information provided, the format, the number of questions, and any incentives will impact the quality of customer responses.
Open-ended questions: One way to craft open-ended questions is to start with a draft of the questions, and then develop a set of expected answers for each question. If the answers are not directionally what you are looking for, rephrase the question. This method is not being suggested to incorporate bias, but to eliminate bias in the way the questions are phrased. Use open-ended questions when you are looking for unqualified feedback.
Closed-ended questions: These can be answered with a yes or no, or by offering a choice of A, B, or C answers. These types of questions can be used when you want limited feedback on specific points — perhaps to confirm your data or assumptions.
In our quest for perfect Net Promoter Scores, people have become somewhat saturated with surveys. True VoC as part of a product development effort has to go beyond a shotgun SurveyMonkey effort. Target your optimum customers, and present the effort in a professional and personal manner. Incentives help with participation but understand that there are limits as to what individuals can accept under IRS rules or company policy. Incentives should be thoughtful, not extravagant.
Choose Your Sample Set Wisely
The best means of selecting your VoC candidates is from your CRM system. Then, validate your selections with input from Sales. Ideally, you want current customers, lost customers, and prospective customers in your VoC cross-section. Your selection should be targeted towards clients who currently use, would use, or have used a product fitting the specifications of the new product or service. It’s of little use to poll a customer who has no need for the product you are developing.
The sample size will be limited by the number of people you can reach. Sampling efficiency will be limited by the number of people who will actually take the time to follow through with your requests.
Filters and Discounts
Once you have conducted your survey, interview, or observations, it’s time to review the data. As you discuss the results with other stakeholders, ambiguity and bias may creep into the conversation.
- “I don’t believe this answer, this data, or this customer!”
- “Did they mean (this) or did they mean (that) when they answered this question?”
- “These notes on the beta test can’t be correct, our prototype doesn’t work like that!”
- “We can discount this feedback because the customer likes the competitor’s product better than ours.”
Your options at this point (as the VoC leader) are to either make judgment calls based on the information at hand or to go back and clarify the areas of concern. Everyone should be satisfied with the VoC feedback at the end of the exercise.
Allow plenty of time to structure your survey, and if it’s not conducted personally, allow plenty of time for your customers to respond. Adhere to deadlines for completion, as they are part of the product development schedule, and allow time for interpretation and follow-up.
The nice thing about VoC is that it’s a fundamental part of product development — and as such, the quality of your results will improve as your experience grows with each effort!
If you need help with a VoC project, contact us for a 30-minute consultation.