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Techniques Used in the Voice of the Customer (VOC) Process

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 3/30/2011

Do you listen to or survey your customers? Or, are you so sure your product or service is so awesome it can entice all on its own? If the latter, it’s time to visit the voice of the customer (VOC) and utilize techniques to improve profits.

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    What Is the Voice of the Customer?

    Voice of the Customer Bruce Temkin, a marketing analyst at Forrester, defines VOC as “a systematic approach for incorporating the needs of customers into the design of customer experiences." The needs and experiences of the customer become of utmost importance, especially when implementing VOC techniques to analyze customer data and make improvements.

    Most automakers use surveys as a VOC technique. Now that the Internet is the fastest way to reach their customers, once a customer purchases a new vehicle, one-hundred percent of those buyers receive an email survey 30 days after the vehicle purchase—before the first vehicle maintenance service is due.

    Questions to these new car buyers are asked about the buying experience but also questions such as:

    • Were you shown where the service department is located?
    • Were you introduced to the service manager?
    • Given a business card with service or parts department hours?
    • Did you get an explanation of your warranty?
    • Were you informed about the parts and accessories department?

    Obviously, those who answered no to any or all of these questions most likely won’t go to the dealership to obtain regular maintenance—unless it’s a free warranty or recall repair—the “no" answers means their needs (even if they are future needs) are not or will not be met.

    From these results, the automaker grades each dealership on the customer “experience" and then works with the dealership to improve the experience to ensure the needs (service repairs) of the customer are met and they will return to the dealership for regularly scheduled maintenance repairs and skip the independent or big chain auto repair center.

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    Understanding the Customer

    Not every VOC process (survey, questionnaire or interview) will work for every product or service because those “voices" are different depending on the product or service. For example, a top video game for tweens will have a different voice than the latest washing machine on the market.

    Before you delve into voice of the customer techniques, know who your customers are first.

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    Techniques for a VOC Process

    Listen to the End User There is a wide array of tools and techniques that can be utilized in a VOC process and finding the right one or combination should be analyzed carefully.

    Surveys – These are tried and true and have been used in telemarketing, as a snail mail tool, and now, e-mail surveys or questionnaires are the norm. This VOC tool can be successful as long as questions are kept short, offer yes or no answers, or a way to mark a block on a scale of like or dislike. Surveys that require writing in notes are never a good idea. Try and streamline your survey so it takes only a few minutes to answer or the customer will skip it.

    Observing the Customer – Another VOC technique is observing customers during the buying process. This involves recording the customer’s facial expressions, how well the sales technique is delivered and how long it takes from deciding to purchase to actually buying and getting out the door. This can be a valuable tool to find the weak areas in your customer service personnel—or employees.

    Group Interaction – Ever been invited to a business to “meet the new team" or a “grand opening" with the promise of a gift? This VOC tool is often utilized to obtain real interaction with customers and find out what they like, what they don’t like and what they’d like to see. From these results, you can redesign your offerings based on their input.

    Development Teams – During product or service development, another VOC tool is to include an end-user (customer) in the process to convey likes, dislikes, flaws or defects—even price. Having a real customer on the team often prevents poor customer satisfaction from the get go.

    Secret Shoppers – This isn’t a new trend but it seems to be popping up more and more. Paying people to be secret shoppers and record their experience will show areas where you need to improve.

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    Using VOC Tools

    It’s important that when developing your own VOC process that a customer service team chooses and develops the voice of the customer technique that will bring results and data you can actually use.

    Once customer data is received, it’s not a good idea to drop the ball and forget about tabulating or deconstructing the data or desires of the customers. If you spend money to implement a good VOC process, by not following through, you are only wasting your money, won’t be able to improve or redesign products or services, and most likely will continue to lose customers down the road.

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    Temkin, Bruce – VOC Techniques and Technologies – retrieved at

    Crow, Kenneth – Voice of the Customer – retrieved at

    Image Credits:

    Shopping - MorgueFile/wallyir

    Conference - MorgueFile/mconnors