Modern businesses must understand the three different types of VOC and apply customer comments to their service strategy in our new customer-centric CX world.
Great customer experience in today’s business landscape begins with understanding what customers expect and demand from interactions with your brand. Taking a customer-centric mindset to CX means first listening to what customers have to say and then acting on their preferences and aversions. The voice of the customer (or VOC) consists of three distinct types of customer feedback: direct, inferred, and third-party.
Each category creates different opportunities and can mean different obstacles to overcome. Leveraging the entire VOC will help modern businesses excel at customer service and maintain happy, loyal customers.
“The voice of the customer (or VOC) consists of three distinct types of customer feedback: direct, inferred, and third-party. Each category creates different opportunities and can mean different obstacles to overcome.”
This type of feedback is the easiest to control and the most straightforward to gather. That control also means businesses can also understand exactly what customer offered direct feedback, adding context and information to their comments. As the name implies, direct VOC is gathered by businesses directly from customers and explicitly mentions the service they experienced. Businesses collect direct voice of the customer feedback through many methods, including surveys, comments logged through customer service interactions, and other research.
One of the most popular forms of direct voice of the customer research is Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys. NPS uses simple, straightforward survey questions and an easy numbered rating to collect and measure direct feedback from customers. Since every response is on a numerical scale, the feedback can be collected and measured, creating a score on a scale of 1-10. NPS measures how likely customers are to recommend a service to a friend — great insight on how helpful or enjoyable customers considered an experience overall. Other forms of direct feedback can collect other useful information as well. Comment forms on product pages are a common way to gather information on the shopping experience and continually improve CX and understand how recent changes have affected customers’ attitudes towards your business.
Direct voice of the customer feedback compares customer opinions explicitly mentioning their experiences. Inferred VOC uses other data your business has collected and measured to understand implied opinions from customers. This type of feedback is generally collected from user trends and customer behaviors and doesn’t usually trace back to individual customers like direct VOC. Instead, Inferred Voice of the Customer looks at behaviors as a whole and sheds light on general customer preferences.
Inferred VOC can give helpful context to individual direct VOC comments. Inferred VOC looks at trends in which channels customers use, what questions they call customer service with most, which page they most often leave your website from, and other data points to learn what customers have difficulty using, don’t appreciate, or are uninterested by. That context can be used to effectively extrapolate direct VOC to your entire customer base and prioritize what challenges should be addressed first. Take steps to address inferred VOC problems and see if the data shifts. Then grow the scale of your changes to correct the problem company-wide.
The most diverse form of VOC, third-party voice of the customer relies on information given by customers to, or gathered by third-party organizations and channels. Review sites like Yelp and Google My Business, social media comments mentioning your business, and conversations with other customers shared during customer service and other interactions are all examples of third-party VOC opportunities. These channels offer the least control as the third-party creates a large buffer between customers and businesses, and can make them difficult to monitor.
Monitoring this type of VOC is worth it, however. Customers often give more candid and genuine comments to third-party channels than they do to VOC channels associated with businesses because of perceived neutrality. Customers may not go into detail about every single issue they faced when speaking with customer service, but they might very well elaborate to friends or family. Customers are more likely to explain the fundamentals of a problem to help others on Yelp and are more likely to only give enough information for their issue to be resolved when talking with customer service.
It is critical to understand how every type of VOC can add necessary insights to customer experience management, and how each channel can be used to monitor changes and improvements to CX. Each type of VOC has drawbacks and advantages that make a diverse monitoring plan necessary if businesses want to get a clear understanding of what their customers actually think. When all three are used in context with each other, issues can be prioritized and real, positive change can be implemented in customer touchpoints. When customers feel heard they end up feeling appreciated. By constantly listening to customer feedback and implementing helpful changes, businesses can expect to significantly improve CX and cultivate a stellar customer service experience.