The past two weeks, I’ve written on some intense social media topics (Social Media ROI and Integrating Owned, Earned, and Paid Media). So let’s lighten it up just a bit and make sure we are in the right frame of mind to drive social success.
For a number of years when I was a marketing executive, many of us would pride ourselves as being “The Voice of the Customer.” The rest of the business organization was myopic in their subject matter expertise, but a select few of us were the delivers of the most important information to the company – “The Voice of the Customer.” (Seems like there should be an amplified professional announcer like Don Pardo standing in every time I mention “The Voice of the Customer.”) Like it was carried in some golden box that unveiled all magical secrets that guaranteed success. Well heck, there is even a process for obtaining “The Voice of the Customer.”
I captured some definition on Voice of the Customer from WikiPedia:
Voice of the customer (VOC) is a term used in business … to describe the in-depth process of capturing a customer’s expectations, preferences and aversions. Specifically, the Voice of the Customer is a market research technique that produces a detailed set of customer wants and needs, organized into a hierarchical structure, and then prioritized in terms of relative importance and satisfaction with current alternatives. Voice of the Customer studies typically consist of both qualitative and quantitative research steps.
Voice of the Customer Initiatives
– A detailed understanding of the customer’s requirements
– A common language for the team going forward
– Key input for the setting of appropriate design specifications for the new product or service
– A highly useful springboard for product innovation.
Now I’ve been in product management and product marketing for a number of years and I know the importance and relevance of what we used to call MSORs (Marketing Statement of Requirements). I lived through “Agile software development” and have a strong appreciation for the current mentality of “deliver early and often.”
All these things are important and have varying degrees of applicability in different cultures and environments. But the one thing I will say that is paramount today and is a significant fundamental change is – we no longer need a voice of the customer. The customer has their own voice and it can be heard in social media everyday.
So yes, as a marketing executive, my days (and yours) as “The Voice of the Customer” are dead. So what is next? I am “The Listener of the Customer.” It is all there if you want for the taking. We no longer need to rely on study methods such as focus groups, individual interviews, ethnography, or other techniques. All the information we want is on the social web to help identify new products or services, refine existing products, improve quality, and create product design specifications. And what is even better is this new social media environment is completely natural and uncontrived.
All that is required is listening and engagement. Listening is straightforward. Maybe not easy, but straightforward. Engagement is a little more difficult. Yes, you have an agenda, but you can not go right to it. You can’t just ask someone what are your needs. You’ll get better responses that will drive better product/service results by building relationships from people that will pour their heart and soul out. And relationships go back to the LCR mentality I have preached.
And you can take this capturing of customers needs, wants, desires, etc. one step further. You can build continuous input from your customer right into your product or service. In my post “IP 3.0 in the Digital Age,” I stated “Social media needs to be integrated and packaged into the actual product/service offering.” The premise here is that social media must be baked into the product. Baked into the product so that the product is shared by users with their network and that their voice is captured from a customer support and product innovation perspective. Identify those users that are power users or super users. Engage with them and make them part of your creative process. They will not look for monetary compensation, but simply be stoked by the thought that they influence your roadmap.
In the old days, I would run customer advisory councils and panels and let me tell you – there was a ton of valuable work that went into these. Today, it is so much simpler with social media. Yes, it takes resources, but I look at it as a redirection of resources to a more valuable output.
Today, leading companies have begun using text mining and text analytics to automate the capture and analysis of “voice of the customer” content from the Web and CRM. I expect to see a number of product releases and enhancements in this area to help capture and correlate relevant customer input.
It is easier than ever to capture “The Voice of the Customer.” What are you doing to grab their input and how are you going about it? Please chime in.
Make It Happen,