Understanding the customer is key to the success of any company – but very few companies truly understand what their customers want versus what they need, which are two very different things. And the problem lies in the way we view the customer mindset. All too often it’s evaluated in stark terms – black and white, love and hate. Some customers have issues with the product and complain, while some customers love the product and praise it.

Unfortunately, that is rarely the whole story. Customers you don’t hear from, and who are likely the majority of your customer base, are the ones who more often dictate success. Or failure.

That’s where the “Voice of the Customer” (VOC) comes into play. VOC is a compilation of voices from different customers. It’s a process used to capture both qualitative and quantitative information from the customer, including requirements, preferences and feedback. That information is ideally then used to help a company deliver the best quality service/product.

The challenge is that customer needs and wants are constantly evolving. Companies must track and accommodate changing customer requirements and expectations to ensure continued success.

In this customer-centric world, VOC is one way to show customers they are important and valued in your business. And what better place to implement an ongoing VOC process and encourage two-way conversations than in the contact center? Here are six steps to capture, understand and adopt the Voice of the Customer in your contact center:

  1. Start with your strategy. What do you want to learn? It’s important to think big with this step. Think about both what you want to learn and what you hope you don’t hear. What one piece of information or feedback would have the most impact on your business? What do they need or want that you aren’t providing? Create your plan and move to step two.
  1. Implement your information gathering tools. Information gathering is the most crucial part of the process so it’s important to do it right. Try customer surveys, focus groups or individual interviews. Review complaints, compliments and comments in a few places – social media, review sites (Glassdoor, Yelp, etc.) and your customer database – to gather some significant data. It’s also important to ask your agents because they interact with and hear feedback straight from the customer’s mouth.
  1. Analyze the data. Examine your information. Look for trends as well as outliers. Someone should read every piece of feedback to really get into the mind of your customer. Decide how to best relay that information and make it easily understandable and actionable.
  1. Compare the results to your company or product strategy. Take a deep breath and some time to think. How does this new data compare to your original product plans? Are customers saying the same things or is the feedback all over the place? Is there anything new or different? Can you realistically make the changes customers are requesting?
  1. Take action. You’ve got the information and the insights—now it’s time to put them to work. Use these insights as a tool to implement improvements across your company. Change your approach to customer service, your product offerings, your methods of communication – whatever your customers have shared and/or requested.
  1. Close the loop. You’re now at a milestone in the VOC process and it’s important to share that. Show customers you took their feedback seriously and made changes based on that. This is an important opportunity to remind them that your company is focused on the customer experience and they are important and valued.

Implementing a VOC process is admittedly not quick or simple but the payoffs can be company-changing. Following these steps will empower your company with a better understanding of your customers’ wants, needs and most of all, their voice. Having a VOC process in place, both during product development and after, is critical to improving your company and strengthening relationships with your customers. It is time to leave behind the black-and-white mentality and open the door to a new customer-focused world full of color. Check out my recent ICMI article for the whole story on implementing VOC in your contact center.

 Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.