Best Practices

How to Build a Voice of the Customer Program from Scratch

After hearing “feedback is a gift” repeated over and over again, I’ve finally worked up the motivation to actually submit feedback to companies whose products and services I rely on—both at work and in my personal life. What do the companies I regard as the “best” have in common? They acknowledge my feedback, and keep me updated on how they are handling my request.

Some might just call this good customer service, and while that’s true, more formally this idea of collecting customer feedback and closing the loop is known as a voice of the customer (VoC) program. Companies use VoCs to collect, analyze, and distribute customer feedback to all internal stakeholders, and these programs hinge on letting customers know that they have been heard and explaining how you plan to address their concerns.

Starting a voice of the customer program requires organizational change, both to how teams interact with customers and with each other. This is no easy feat; employees are often set in their ways and unwilling to admit that there’s a better way to do things. In reality, everyone at your company will benefit from this shift in process and culture, and your job is to ensure they know this right from the start.

Here are four key steps to building a voice of the customer program from the ground up:

Step 1: Set the vision for your VoC program

As you embark on your voice of the customer journey, start by identifying your overall goals. There are plenty of benefits of implementing a VoC program, but narrowing down what you hope to achieve will help you focus efforts on the most important areas. Since there are so many options available, don’t be afraid to start small and tackle one piece of a wider voice of the customer program at a time.

Here are some examples of goals you might choose to focus on:

    • Improve your customer service experience
    • Reduce customer churn/improve retention
    • Increase employee productivity and satisfaction
    • Uplevel your product strategy
    • Increase free trial conversion

By now, you should already be evangelizing VoC internally. Share the vision you and your team put together with the rest of the company, walking through what you’re looking to achieve and ideally, the benefits to each stakeholder or team.

Step 2: Choose the right systems to collect and house feedback

Operationally, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for customers to send you feedback. This could mean you need to implement new channels, improve existing channels, or both. If you don’t have one already, consider creating a channel for customers to submit requests within your product itself. When taken together, this day-to-day commentary represents how customers feel about your product and can highlight small improvements that will make a big difference to your customer base.

Another key step in creating a VoC program is determining where you will house all of the feedback you collect. Since feedback can come from so many different places, there needs to be a central place where it all lives. Here are three factors to consider when choosing a system:

    1. How easy is it to update with new feedback? (e.g. is it a spreadsheet that requires manual input, or a tool that automates that process?)
    2. How easy is it to organize and manipulate the information?
    3. How accessible is the tool to everyone at the company?

Step 3: Create clear processes across the organization

While it can be challenging to get people to change their mindset around customer feedback, it can be even more challenging to get them to change their actions. This is where it’s important to create clear and consistent processes to ensure team members understand that everyone is responsible for customer feedback.

When working through processes and ownership for your VoC inputs, here are some questions to consider:

    • Who will be responsible for responding to Net Promoter Score (NPS) responses?
    • Which teams will use customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores?
    • How will you route feedback from social media to the appropriate team(s)?
    • Who will create and send out user surveys?
    • How will you solicit ongoing, in-app feedback?

Each team—from product and customer success to sales and marketing—should have a clear sense of which item(s) they are responsible for and when (and how) to pass feedback on to the product team. Your fellow co-workers can also be valuable sources of feedback, so make sure everyone knows how they can submit their own product feedback, too.

Step 4: Close the loop with your customers

Last but certainly not least (truthfully, quite the opposite), is to ensure you are communicating back to the customers who took the time to share their feedback and requests. Make sure your voice of the customer program doesn’t just involve feedback collection—you have to close the feedback loop, too.

This is where the processes you created in Step 3 will come into play. Make sure the team (or teams) responsible for each VoC input knows what’s expected of them when it comes to closing the loop. Sometimes, this means a simple message that lets users know their feedback has been heard. Other times, it will require team members to follow up about specific pieces of feedback to learn more. 

It’s also helpful to use a tool that lets customers see the status of their feedback request in real time, which also takes the burden off your team to continuously communicate updates. Regardless of which methods you choose, closing the loop and communicating back with customers is just as important as listening in the first place.