The Voice of The Customer: Listening to And Connecting with Your Customers
As part of our blog, we have recently launched TOADBusiness: A place where we share some of our business insights for Start-Ups and young entrepreneurs.
If there’s one thing I would encourage a business in start-up to pay attention to it would be this: ‘The Voice of Customer’. In short, this is what your customer would say about your brand, product or service, to a friend or a colleague. It's how they feel about you. Listening closely, and responding to this, will put you in good stead to satisfy their needs, leading to business growth and increased brand awareness.
It’s important to note that the voice of the customer isn’t always discovered through market-research, or through focus-group testing, but in listening to the key things that your customers are saying about your brand. For many young businesses the overhead of market-research, or running in-house focus groups, is simply untenable on a small budget. Given these constraints, how do we discover the true voice of our customers? Here are some of my thoughts.
Tune in to the customer ‘touch-points’: Sales, Returns and Customer Service.
Every business has many customer touch-points that can help discover their customer’s voice.
Sales is an easy place to start. For example, simply analysing sales data to see which products are doing well: Are there some clear favourites? Are there some underperformers? Ask the question ‘What is it about these products that our customers like so much? Or conversely, ‘What is it about the underperformers that our customers dislike?’ If your company starts to ask these deeper questions, it will help you develop a more informed opinion about how people are interacting with your brand.
Many small businesses analyse sales data to push up sales. Whilst this can be a powerful tactic, it should not be done in isolation. The broader point is that customers have an emotional relationship with your brand, which you should try to nurture. Improving sales can be achieved by adding customer centred value to your products or service. This does not entail simply adjusting the price-point, or offering short-term promotions. An example of this is offering a no-quibble, hassle-free returns service. At TOAD, we include a form with the despatch of the product that starts with the headline ‘Send me Back! Then, in smaller text ‘’..if you’re not 100% satisfied”. The return simply needs addressing FREEPOST TOAD. We just ask the customer to include the reason for the return, providing us with valuable insight to act upon.
Customer service complaints are also a rich resource when seeking out the voice of the customer. Great questions to ask here are:
- Are there specific products (or subsets of products) that often get complaints?
- Are there specific types of complaints that are often received? (We had a common theme of complaints about our Hardback diaries not being fully section sewn: Now they are.)
- Do customers tend to ask about new potential future products? (Should your company start developing these?)
- What sort of feedback do you receive for your customer service?
This can be a powerful (and cost-effective) way of developing s sense of how your customers feel about your brand, your service levels, and the products you sell. Make sure to develop a simple process to record this data and you’ll quickly start to see patterners emerging.
When things do go wrong, and they will, this is not the end of the road. Making our customers feel valued (because, after all, they pay our wages) is essential to keep in mind when rectifying product or service issues. Incredibly, customers prefer a sense of being valued over free products when making a complaint.
Take a look at this pie chart from Cape Consulting.
Amazingly 65% of customers wanted to feel more valued, or for the company to apologies vs 22% who would have preferred money off/ a free product.
Strategy Over Quick Fixes.
An important thing to note is that simply ‘fixing’ these problems, in an ad hoc manner, isn’t utilizing the voice of the customer to best effect. They key is to look at all the available information and focus on the core customer frustrations that have emerged from your analysis.
In other words, look for common themes and strategically work on improving these. Your customers will love you for it. They’ll reward you with sales, loyally and help increase awareness for your brand.
Here at TOAD this concept frames everything we do. One of our core principles is to be continually innovating. This has not come as some arbitrary decision, but because our customers are always looking for greater choice and customization. As long as that is the case, we will continue to develop new products to continually meet their needs.