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The Voice of Your Customer: GPS for Your Company During Tough Times

Industry Report on Ernan Roman from The Marketing Forum
August 19, 2011

Customers are a precious resource and must not be squandered. This is especially true during these tough economic times. To improve retention, marketing innovators are increasingly using Voice of Customer-driven strategies to drive deeper, stronger relationships with customers.

Voice of Customer (VoC) is a research process involving structured, in-depth interviews with customers, past customers, and prospects. VoC enables brands to analyze the quality and value of their product, the quality of the customer experience across multiple touch points, the quality of their customer service/inside sales personnel as well as the competitive differentiation of their product pricing and value. VoC also offers insight on which specific offers, delivered in what combination of media, will attract the most customers.

Here are four best practices that will get your organization closer to being Voice of Customer driven:

Best Practice #1: Create a Reciprocity of Value Equation. Marketers who provide relevant information and offers will in turn, encourage consumers to opt-in and provide invaluable information regarding their message, offer, and media preferences. This information becomes the core of a uniquely powerful preference- driven database which will drive double-digit increases in response and revenue. For a good example of such a program, see this Microsoft case study .

Best Practice #2: Use both qualitative and quantitative customer research to gather customer insights. VoC is a qualitative methodology that supplements and augments quantitative analysis by generating in-depth, marketing strategy guidance. It is based on interviews which are roughly one hour in length. Combining qualitative and quantitative methods can be game-changing. Applied properly, VoC can help companies to increase repeat purchases, referrals, and lifetime value.

Best Practice #3: Drive Tactical Improvements in the Customer experience. Action items include re-designing your web site experience per VoC feedback, rethinking your on-line strategies, and retraining customer service reps to be more relationship-focused (rather than transaction-focused). Elias Roman, CEO of Songza Media, Inc., a social-media-driven online music service, www.songza.com, used feedback from VoC interviews to drive a new website design and customer experience. The result? "We doubled user session time from twenty to forty minutes, and saw similar increases in revenue generation."

Best Practice #4: Harness the power of social media. The goal is to use feedback from social media tools to create, sustain, and reinforce a "permanent VoC" mindset at all levels of the organization. VoC is not something you "finish." It is a way of doing business! For a case study on how the online apparel marketer Threadless.com uses this "permanent VoC" approach to create a bestselling new products, and engage customers, click here: http://ernanroman.blogspot.com/2011_02_01_archive.html

The Take Away: Using VoC to create a culture of agility allows you to constantly implement, test, and measure great insights from your customers. Make VoC- guidance a core part of your company culture. Use it like a customer GPS for your business.

New Book Release: Voice Of The Customer Marketing
"This is the definitive playbook for this new customer-driven era."
—Frank Eliason
Senior Director, National Customer Operations, Comcast
"Thank you, Ernan, for tuning us in to the inner voice of our customers! A deep understanding of our customers' needs and preferences is essential for our future growth."
—Karen Galley
President, Patient News Publishing