Here at VIRTUATel, we believe in the Voice of the Customer, which is no great surprise, given that it’s a VIRTUATel trademark! But just what is it? And how can it help you?

What is the Voice of the Customer?

The Voice of the Customer might seem like a simple concept, but the act of listening can be a surprisingly technical process.

At VIRTUATel, we mainly work with companies with a large national or international footprint, but for this article, let’s take it back to the street. Take a local record shop for example: the voice of their customer is likely to highlight that they like music – no surprises there. But further to that, that they will expect you to have lots of obscure records in stock, and might even go as far as to say they dislike popular music. Once a business hears that voice of the customer, they can plan their business accordingly.

The analyst or business owner must try to identify as many things about the target audience as possible, and then order them in levels of importance. Whilst record shop customers might prefer low lighting, that’s not to be prioritised over getting hold of the latest releases! The hope is, of course, that with such useful data a business can create better tailored products and services, as well as perhaps expanding their target audience.

This information can come from all different sources – and as we’ve discussed before, not all surveys are created equal! For quantity of data, a simple survey could be used – as part of an email newsletter, or even a text message. But for more in-depth answers, longer interviews can be done.  There’s also the use of large scale demographic information, not collected on your own but perhaps via census information, which can give you info about the potential market in your area.

What can the voice of the customer say?

There are three main kinds of information gained through listening to the voice of the customer.

These are

1) the expectations of the customer

2) what they do like, generally, and in relation to your product

3) what they don’t like, generally, and in relation to your product

Whilst it’s tempting to think you possess mindreading skills (and most businesses begin with this assumption), your clairvoyance is no match for cold, hard data. Surveying your customers has some real, tangible benefits.

Better sales for your business

If you take the time to look into your target market and listen to the Voice of the Customer, you can better sell to them. Take the record store as an example. If this record store is based in the trendiest parts of a city, following current trends would mean that you should be selling new and old obscure music. If the record store is based in a small town in the countryside, it might be worth having more classic music that would appeal to an older audience. It’s a hard sell to market Bobby Darin to a younger audience, or Alt-J to an older audience. So take care to read your customer and find out what they like and don’t like, so that you can give them what they want, and not necessarily what you think you would like to sell.

Better branding for your business

You can tailor how you sell yourself through listening to the Voice of the Customer. If the store finds that their audience is mostly young people, they would have great success having a colourful, big and loud brand, as well as advertising on social media. If they find that their audience is mostly older people, they might benefit from having a more reserved but memorable brand and advertising in Sunday paper magazines. That way they would be reaching through to the right audience in a way that would relate to them.

Finding the right staff for your business

So – you can change your brand, and you can change your products: but what about your staff? It’s an often overlooked fact that listening to the voice of the customer can help you make the right appointments to fit your brand.  Apple is well known for having ‘Genius’ staff members, because its customers demand a certain level of technical knowledge, and Apple prides itself on having products that are easy to set-up. But perhaps the record shop needs to make sure that their next hire has their finger on the pulse of the local music scene, or be an expert in classical music. And as an additional use of the customer insight, customer surveys are proven to help train and motivate staff. This is especially the case if you share the results and verbatim comments with them in real-time, so they can change their behaviour accordingly.

Choosing an informed vision

The Voice of the Customer can also be invaluable in choosing the vision you have for your business, right now and moving forward. Listening to the customer can give you new ideas for products to sell, new targets to market to and even suggest new locations to expand into. All of these potential areas of growth are far better prepared with reference to the customer’s likes and dislikes – that’s why there are focus groups for products and test screenings for movies.

So what does it mean?

As you can see, whilst the rules apply to a small highstreet operation, it’s easy to see how the voice of the customer can be applied to larger companies – and in fact, it’s arguably even more important to keep listening to the customer in these companies, as they tend to be in high competition industries. Having said that, even smaller businesses can take advantage of the Voice of the Customer by installing something simple like a kiosk where customers can press a smiley face to communicate their experience.

We’re marketing leaders in the Voice of the Customer, book an appointment to talk through the voice of your customer today.