The following post was written by Mark Dengler, President at RMS.

In the market research world, the voice of the customer (VoC) is key to understanding and managing customer experiences as well as enhancing product/service design. You should always be listening to your customers and what they are saying, whether it be directly to your organization’s staff, indirectly through consumer review websites, or social media. The vast majority of all companies primarily compete based upon customer experience. Therefore, listening to your customers is vital to a company’s long term growth and success. Customer interests, wants and needs are constantly changing. By doing VoC research, your organization can stay abreast of ever changing customer preferences. Unfortunately, actual customer feedback data is used only a small percentage of times when making a decision that affects them. As a recent article I read stated, “If you don’t understand customer market perceptions or how interactions with your firm are being experienced by your customers, it’s nearly impossible to regularly meet, much less exceed, customer expectations or to improve your organization’s performance (Michael Hinshaw, CEO, McorpCX).” And that really is what we’re all looking for—long-term customer relationships earned by exceeding their expectations.

Findings obtained from VoC work will keep your organization competitive, driving product/service enhancements. Actual VoC work should incorporate both qualitative and quantitative research techniques. It should be ongoing, and results should be thoroughly reviewed by management staff. The information obtained should capture information tied to identifying customer needs, expectations, loyalty, and usage intentions. Moreover, it allows for organizations to develop customized marketing strategies that can be used in targeted campaigns. We now live in an age of one-to-one marketing versus one-to-many marketing strategies (one size fits all). It is important to note that VoC is not customer satisfaction research. VoC focuses on learning and assessing customer expectations, whereas customer satisfaction aims at measuring customer experience. Both activities are vitally important and provide organizations with valuable information. Finally, be sure to look at all sources available to “listen to your customer.” This includes regular debriefs with the sales force team, the customer service department and/or anyone else along your distribution chain who has a direct touch point with the customer. With the rapid growth of social media, customer feedback should be regularly monitored. In today’s fast paced marketplace, “hearing voices” is often a very good trait, particularly when it’s your customers’ voices. Listening to and acting upon these voices is what is ultimately going to help set your company apart from its competition. The need to implement a VoC strategy is vital for your organization’s long term success.

RMS is a full-service market research firm. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at RMSresults.com.

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