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Look Who’s Talking, and Where

Bob Northway | Apr. 01, 2014

Take Advantage of New Channels to Capture the Voice of Your Target Customer
Today’s customers are empowered as never before. But, the channels that fuel customer independence can also provide unprecedented access to the voice of the customer—or VoC—enabling marketers to gain deeper customer insight and create more powerful marketing.

In findings from a 2013 survey, research firm Aberdeen Group observed, “customers have always been viewed as ‘king,’ but they have also become a major catalyst for new product or service creation, new sales tactics (i.e., segmentation) and transformed marketing programs (i.e., social media marketing)…better understanding of the customer is now leveraged to drive brand awareness, loyalty and top-line revenue growth.”1

With attention spans shrinking and clutter exploding, the relevance of your marketing to the customer has never been more vital. Noted business author Ernan Roman reinforces this point, stating VoC “allows us to give customers what they really want most from us—and avoid the annoyance and alienation that results from offering them what they don’t want.”2

Mining VoC
How can you apply today’s channels (Web, search, mobile, social) to gain deeper customer insight? Social media monitoring is an obvious first step to observing customer conversations, how they are affecting your brand reputation and what they reveal about unmet customer wants and needs. Active participation in those online conversations can reveal even more.

Next, consider the possibilities of mobile. Mobile commerce was expected to grow by 68% in 20133 and, when polled last year, at least 60% of U.S. smartphone users made purchases with their phones in the previous six months.4 With more than half of U.S. adults now carrying smartphones,5 mobile represents an unprecedented opportunity to engage customers at the point of sale and almost anywhere else they go. Many marketers are leveraging mobile to improve real-time customer engagement at events, using Twitter feeds to capture responses and make content adjustments on the fly.

Your website, social pages, blogs and other owned media are additional rich sources of customer information. Regular review of site analytics can reveal topics of strong interest, and creating live forums or inviting comments will allow you to capture even more specific and potentially actionable insight.

Harnessing the Power of VoC
If you aren’t exploring new channels for capturing VoC, experts say you might be missing an opportunity to improve the quality and frequency of customer engagement. The Aberdeen survey notes that one of the main characteristics of empowered customers is their “expectations to have timely and personalized interactions with businesses (using) the channel they want to engage through.”

New opportunities to hear the voice of the customer are emerging every day. Here are some additional suggestions to tap into this powerful resource:

  • Leverage the advantages of inbound marketing with owned media content that encourages customers to share pain points and challenges and engage in an ongoing rich dialogue with you.
  • Ask permission and use text message (SMS/MMS) mobile marketing to capture the voice of your best customers on the fly. Expert James Citron says 95 out of 100 customers who opt in will open and read your messaging within three minutes!6
  • Strip away the artificial structure of surveys, focus groups, interviews and phone scripts to reduce customer resistance, so they’ll tell you what’s really in their hearts and on their minds.
  • Explore the latest developments like virtual agent technology, which uses digital personas similar to Siri® to let customers engage in conversations at their convenience and on their own terms.

Capturing Many Voices
Taking advantage of opportunities across your multichannel marketing activities expands your access to underlying customer wants and needs. It helps you avoid the flaw Steve Jobs famously attributed to VoC: “It’s hard for customers to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.”7

The iconic innovator was likely reacting to typical customer-service surveys that depend on consumers to articulate the exact solution. But by asking more customers the right questions, in the right way, at the right time, you’ll improve the odds of hitting real pay dirt: the underlying drivers of game-changing new products and truly disruptive value propositions.

At Blue Flame Thinking, we’re passionate about customer insight. We leverage it every day to create compelling marketing solutions that produce better results. Let’s start a conversation today.

[1] Aly Pinder, “Voice of the Customer: Empowered Customers Bring a Wealth of Business Insight,” aberdeen.com, posted April 1, 2013, retrieved, March 21, 2014.
[2] Ernan Roman, Voice-of-the-Customer Marketing: A Revolutionary 5-Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend, and Stay, McGraw-Hill, 2010.
[3] Chuck Jones, “Ecommerce Is Growing Nicely While Mcommerce Is on a Tear,” forbes.com, posted Oct. 2, 2013, retrieved March 21, 2014.
[4] Bill Dinan, “Mobile Path to Purchase Study Shows Higher and Earlier Engagement, Local Focus,” imediaconnection.com, posted May 17, 2013, retrieved March 21, 2014.
[5] Susannah Fox and Lee Rainie, “Pew Internet & American Life Study,” pewinternet.org, posted Feb. 27, 2014, retrieved March 21, 2014.
[6] Steve Olenski, “Pulling Back the Curtain on Text Message Mobile Marketing,” forbes.com, posted March 4, 2013, retrieved March 21, 2014.
[7] Gerry Katz, “Hijacked Again!” Quirks Market Research Review, page 39, December 2013.

Siri® is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.


Bob Northway

Bob Northway

Bob applies more than 30 years' experience helping marketers of science- and engineering-based products find their better.