Your Customer can tell you what you need to know. Are you listening?

In our first blog we talked about why listening to the Voice of the Customer is so important and gave you a quick overview of what the customer can potentially communicate to help you improve your business’ efficiency and productivity.

In this second blog you’ll learn about the first and most obvious way the customer communicates with an organization: stated needs. These are needs that the customer is able to articulate and which can be captured using the tools we’re going to talk about below.

Some of the means by which organizations can capture stated needs are already in regular use by marketing and customer experience teams. None are obligated to use all of them, but using a broad selection of them can ensure a business is able to get the broadest cross section of articulated needs from its customers. 

Surveys and Direct Elicitation 

Surveys are a popular method for collecting feedback that is easily quantifiable. They use predefined questions in a variety of formats including fillable text boxes or multiple choice. Researchers can conduct surveys easily in person, over the phone, through web forms, or through video. Surveys are useful for assessing and monitoring customer preferences and satisfaction, as well as for evaluating the impact of changes to products or services. 

Benchmarking 

Benchmarking is a practice in which organizations study how other organizations satisfy their customers’ needs. It is a means to study best practices and learn how to pinpoint weaknesses in processes and design workflows. 

Gemba Visits  

Gemba is a technique in which the researcher goes to the workplace to get direct information about what customers want and need. It can be an excellent technique for observing workers directly in their environment, which is particularly useful when customers and workers don’t feel they have the freedom to complain openly. 

Focus Groups and Customer Advisory Panels 

Focus groups and customer advisory panels allow researchers to spend time with customers to solicit answers to specific questions or engage in wide-ranging brainstorming sessions. These events can be conducted in person or with collaborative technology. 

Social Media Analysis 

Social media feedback can provide timely and unmediated access to customer insights. These insights can be addressed and remedied immediately when necessary. 

Chat Transcripts and Customer Service Notes 

Transcripts and notes of online chats or calls with service representatives provide useful evidence of product deficiencies, customer difficulties, and the strategies the customer service representatives employ to address customer needs. 

Web Analytics 

Web analytics illuminate customer priorities when they visit an organization’s website. By monitoring the traffic on specific parts of the website, the organization can extrapolate conclusions about the customers’ needs and interests. For example, heavy traffic on the trouble-shooting or technical assistance portion of the page may indicate problems with product design or documentation. 

Feedback Forms 

Businesses can provide a feedback form to a customer immediately after an interaction to measure their reactions to products and customer service. 

Emails 

Emails from customers who have interacted with the organization’s products or services can be an excellent source of unstructured feedback, particularly if they are responding to negative experiences. 

Suggestion Box 

Though it might seem old fashioned in a technology-driven world, the suggestion box remains a valuable way of collecting anonymous feedback from both employees and customers. 

Analyst Reports 

Organizations can purchase reports from research firms such as Gartner or Forrester to get access to market research information gathered using more complex methods and larger data sets. 

Customer Complaints 

Organizations should analyze customer complaints to look for trends that illuminate the process or product failures that lurk behind customer satisfaction. 

Product Cancellation Information 

Providing a feedback form immediately after a customer cancels a product or service provides immediate information about the thoughts and feelings that motivated the action. 

Lost Deals 

Sales teams can collect valuable insights from informal conversations with customers after failed bids or deals. Some organizations have formalized this exercise and created a business analysis role dedicated exclusively to analyzing data and insights from lost deals. 

Delphi Method 

The Delphi Method is an interviewing technique in which researchers present subject matter experts with multiple rounds of questionnaires. Respondents then deliberate during each round until they narrow down their responses and reach a consensus. 

Sales Meetings, Service Calls, and Other Personal Interactions 

Personal interactions between sales teams and customers can produce valuable anecdotal information that would often not be included in a survey. The most significant problem with this method is that these insights are rarely captured or documented, which reduces the opportunity for analyzing and acting upon them. 

Willingness-to-Pay Data 

This method distinguishes between two customer perspectives on the financial investment they are willing to make into a product. The first is how much they are willing to pay for a product (WTP). The second is the minimum amount a person is willing to accept to either abandon a product or to put up with negative and unsatisfying product features. Determining these amounts can provide significant insight into the financial value customers attach to specific parts of a product. 

Warranty Data 

Collecting data during the servicing of warranty claims can provide valuable information about product failures and customer dissatisfaction, as well as the ways in which customers think the products fail to live up to their promised functionality.

Conclusion

Capturing the Voice of the Customer can enable your business to grow and deliver a product or service that more accurately reflects the needs of your target audience or demographic. Stated needs are the easiest to collect because the customer is aware of what they want and are able to articulate that.

In our next blog, we’ll look at implied needs and how methods rooted in psychology, philosophy, ethnography, and data science can provide your organization with the insights it needs to meet and even exceed customer demand.

Additional Resources:

What is the Voice of the Customer? By Jennifer Chylinski.

Voice of the Customer: Enhance Quality by Capturing Stated, Implied and Silent Needs By Graham Freeman and Nicole Radziwill.

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