If you’re building a SaaS business, we don’t have to tell you that competition for your customers’ time and budget is tougher than ever. To thrive in this ultra competitive environment, the best companies leverage customer feedback to improve every aspect of the customer experience, beginning with the first contact that a customer has with your company. In this post, we’ll cover a popular methodology for leveraging this customer feedback to improve your business: Voice of the Customer (VoC).

 

What is the Voice of the Customer?

Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a methodology for understanding customer needs, requirements and perceptions of your company, product and brand. The process captures customer feedback from all channels, and that feedback should span all aspects of your business, whether it’s the first interaction with a sales representative or your marketing, to the purchase process and onboarding, to the product experience itself. The goal is to understand both strengths and weaknesses in the customer experience, so that you can use that information to improve across all parts of your business. Voice of the Customer is a closed-loop process that includes capturing feedback, acting on it, and communicating back to your customers.

 

How Do You Use Voice of the Customer to Improve Your Business?

Successful companies will do everything that they can to ensure that customers have a positive experience which, again, spans every aspect of their interactions with your company. Companies that don’t do this well will lose customers to those that do. A clear and painful symptom of unhappy customers is high churn, which is incredibly costly to a business. Conversely, those that excel at continuously improving the customer experience will have low or negative churn and customers who serve as advocates for the brand, helping to amplify your message and referring new customers. In fact, an Aberdeen study found that companies that leverage best-in-class Voice of the Customer programs experienced 55% higher customer retention and a 24% decrease in customer service costs. 

 

If you wish to identify weak points or opportunities for improvement in your customers’ experience, use Voice of the Customer. Begin by collecting customer feedback using the methodologies covered below. Then, aggregate and organize the feedback to identify the most significant opportunities for improvement. These opportunities should then be prioritized into projects that are executed by the relevant team, whether marketing, sales, customer success / support, or product.

 

Feedback Collection Techniques and Sources

Types of Feedback

Voice of the Customer data or feedback comes from many different sources and in many different forms. Broadly speaking, there are two types of feedback, proactive and reactive. We cover these in more detail below, but proactive feedback includes all of the feedback that you solicit from your customers. Examples of proactive feedback include focus groups, interviews and surveys. Reactive feedback is feedback that comes unsolicited from your customers. Examples of this type of feedback include live chat, email and social media.

 

Proactive Voice of the Customer Feedback

Customer or User Interviews

User interviews are a tried and tested way to build understanding of your customers’ needs. While user interviews are typically structured around a focused set of questions, the one-to-one, live format makes it easy to dig deeper on your users’ responses to questions, which can provide more insight into particular issues than one-to-many, asynchronous formats like surveys. This also makes them a more time-consuming methodology, and interview recordings and notes need to be summarized and categorized to compare responses across a large group of respondents.

 

Focus Groups

Focus Groups share many of the characteristics of one-to-one user interviews, but are done at a larger scale. Because of the group nature, there’s often more coordination and planning required to get a group together, either in person or online. The benefit is that you can gather feedback from a large group of people at once, and it can be insightful to see how participants play off of each others’ responses.

 

Surveys (including in-app)

Surveys are a widely used Voice of the Customer tool. Surveys allow you to solicit feedback from as few or as many of your users as you like. Questions need to be carefully constructed, because unlike interviews or focus groups, you won’t be able to easily clarify a question if it’s misunderstood. A big benefit is that rank or multiple choice responses can be easily aggregated across a large number of participants, and some interview software can extract themes or sentiments from free text responses.

Because we’re all inundated with surveys, the response rates, particularly for email surveys, can be very low. We’ve seen dramatically higher response rates for surveys delivered in-app. It’s much more natural to ask for user feedback when you are at the top of your users’ mind.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) Surveys

“How likely are you to recommend this blog post to a friend?” Sound familiar? NPS surveys seem to be everywhere. We cover NPS in a lot more detail in this post, but it’s important to note that while NPS is an effective way to gather overall sentiment about a customer’s entire experience with your business, it’s not an effective way to understand a particular aspect of that experience, such as your onboarding, support or the product itself. For that, we recommend using something like Customer Effort Score, Customer Happiness Index or Feature Fit Index, all of which we cover in this post.

Feature Previews

How do you know if you’re building features that your users will find valuable? One of the best ways to do this is to present your users with a preview of the feature that you’re planning on building, and present it right in your app. This helps users understand the new feature concept in the appropriate context, and then you can ask your users to vote on the new feature, as well as collect any freeform feedback.

Parlor Preview

Product Announcements

Once you’ve built and released a new feature, make the most of your product announcement! We’ve found that celebrating a product announcement is much more effective than a boring writeup of release notes. The best place to announce your new feature is right in the app, and you can gather sentiment from users at the same time. Not only will this drive new feature adoption, it will also help you understand how well your new feature resonates with your users.

Parlor feature announcement

Reactive Voice of the Customer Types

Live Chat

Most SaaS products now use some form of live chat. Drift and Intercom are two of the most popular solutions, and both allow you to target specific messaging to different audiences, based on their behavior or where they trigger the chat window from. While live chat is a great way to provide a quick response to your users’ support needs, it’s not an effective way to collect product feedback. So why not first ask your users what type of feedback they want to provide, and route it to the right place?

feature_or_support

Feature Requests

We spend a lot of time talking to leaders of SaaS businesses, and we have yet to talk to one whose customers don’t have a lot of ideas about what could be improved in their product. Your users are an invaluable resource for improving your product. And while you could collect feature requests in any number of the other channels that we’ve discussed, the best way is to make it easy for your users to submit feature requests in-app, while they’re using your product.

As we discussed above, feature requests don’t belong in your live chat tool, or most of these other channels. By providing an easy way for your users to make feature requests, you can send this valuable feedback right to your product team, which also unburdens your support team to focus on support requests.

Email

Some users will still prefer to request support or provide feedback through email. Many different types of feedback can come in through this channel, but successfully using some of the other mechanisms that we’ve discussed should significantly cut down on the volume of feedback coming in through email. When you do receive email feedback, it’s important to route it to the team that can best help. Product or feature requests that come through email need to be appropriately tagged and associated with the user or users who requested them.

 

Feedback Forms

Feeling nostalgic for the 2000s? Hello feedback forms! Seriously though, while it may make sense to have a place on your site where users can submit feedback that doesn’t naturally fit into one of the other channels that we’ve covered, your goal should be to provide users opportunities to provide the right kind of feedback in the right place, minimizing the need for a catchall feedback form. 

 

Online Review Sites

Online review sites like G2Crowd, Capterra and TrustRadius are popular destinations for buyers looking to compare different software solutions. If you’re running an effective Voice of the Customer program, you should have lots of happy customers writing you glowing reviews on these platforms.

 

However, if you have a lot of customers leaving negative reviews on these sites, you’ve got work to do! These unhappy users are probably turning to review sites because they haven’t received the support or response that they need from you. So take time to understand the review and reach out to those unhappy customers to address their concerns. Often you can turn an unhappy customer into a happy one, and they might even go back and turn that two start review into a four or five!

 

Social Media

Similar to the above, if you’re really listening to your customers, they should be singing your praises on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. However, if they’re turning to these channels to express their frustration, you need to understand and address their concerns. Some level of social media flaming is probably unavoidable for any company with a large user base, but if the negatives outweigh the positives, you need to listen to what those customers are telling you.

 

From Feedback Collection to Work to be Done

As we discussed, businesses that run effective Voice of the Customer programs will build better products, have happier customers and outperform their competition. There are lots of different ways to collect user feedback to be used in an effective Voice of the Customer program, but some are better than others. To really run an impactful Voice of the Customer program, you need to have a strong end-to-end process for customer feedback management, and the feedback collection methodologies covered in this post are only the first step. We view this feedback management process in six steps:

  • Collect
  • Organize
  • Validate
  • Prioritize
  • Communicate
  • Educate

 

Without the right tools and processes to manage the other steps of the process, you’ll likely find yourself overwhelmed with unstructured feedback, and unable to turn the feedback into actionable work to be done.

 

While there are a number of tools that can do one or two pieces of this process well, we built Parlor to be a comprehensive feedback management system. So rather than struggling with an overly complex stack of tools, and being overwhelmed by a massive volume of unstructured feedback, you can focus on understanding your customer needs. Ready to get started? Let’s talk!