Why the voice of the customer is more than what you think it is

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When I say the words “voice of customer”, what crosses your mind? For most of us, these three words are synonymous with brands scouring various media channels and surveys to extract customer sentiment.

An MIT paper defines this simply as a process for capturing requirements to enhance the overall customer experience. However, voice of customer is much more than that and it all revolves around the basic philosophical principle of placing customers at the heart of your business. Here are some ways in how brands are doing it…

It’s Sunday evening, you’ve invited your friends around for dinner. You accidentally burn the roast you had cooking in the oven and the supermarkets are closed, what do you do? You simply unlock your smartphone and with one tap of a finger (or facial recognition if you’ve got a trendy smartphone) you open up the Deliveroo application, and before you know it, your knight in shining armour (or rather in turquoise overalls) arrives with your food in hand (sounds like a plot line to a well thought out marketing campaign). Well, this reflects the reality of 21st century consumerism and our exposure to digital disruptors like Uber, Netflix and Deliveroo.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this and how this relates to the voice of customer?

According to commentators, the unprecedented success of digital disruptors is due to the emergence of advanced digital technology alongside unique strategic business models. However, the simple fact remains, the root cause for the success of disruptors is that they listened to the needs of the consumer.

Take said example of Deliveroo. They understood their audience wanted access to restaurant quality food in the comfort of their own homes, all without having to go through painful phone calls and screaming orders at a chef in a busy restaurant kitchen. Thus, their business model is based around delivering food from restaurants that don’t typically deliver directly to your door using an app that lets you order food in less than three taps. Moreover, they also heard consumers vocalising about protecting the environment hence Deliveroo advocates the usage of delivery cyclists and an opt-in option for cutlery resulting in a rather catchy tagline: Great food shouldn’t cost the earth.

But how exactly do Deliveroo and similar brands listen to their audience?

With over 2 billion smart phones in circulation and over half of the world’s population having access to the internet, listening to the voice of the consumer has been largely digitised. As such, I prefer to refer to digital disruptors as ‘digital listeners’. Gone are the days of having to launch full scale customer surveys and a plethora of focus groups to understand the customer’s perspective.

Brands can use customer centric data such as social media sentiment and Net Promoter Score tracking to gauge how the consumer feels about a certain product or service. If a customer is dissatisfied with a product and voices their opinion in a social media post, this is great actionable insight and can help address the issue for future customers. However, one of the biggest challenges surrounding how brands listen to the customer is to anticipate thoughts before they become a voice.

So, how can we work out what the customer wants before they vocalise it?

The first step is understanding that social media data or the physical voice of customer is not the only source of information when it comes to understanding what the customer wants. Oftentimes the loudest voice can be gauged using customer spending habits through transactional data. For example, a customer shops at IKEA and buys a kitchen unit. In the natural progression of consumer cycle purchase we can assume that there will be a plethora of kitchen-based complementary goods that the consumer may also want.

Brands can leverage ‘voice of purchase’ data such as transactional data alongside an array of analytical techniques including predictive modelling and demand forecasting to work out what the customer really wants. The spill-over bonus is that this insight can also be used to also ensure supply chain health. Therefore, consumer demand is met and the probability of complaining about a product being out of stock is reduced.

However, surely there are more creative methods brands are using to listen to the customer?

Did you enjoy the last movie you saw at the cinema? The last film that I saw was about a demonic nun running around causing havoc. I usually love horror films, but this film did not live up to my expectations. This is where Disney had the great idea to listen to the customer enabling the production of better films. So, they collated market research on how film goers really felt about movies by developing clever algorithms through facial tracking technology (using over 16 million data points of facial expression). The algorithm was able to predict how a person would react at certain points within the movie with scary accuracy. Disney could use this data to begin producing movies that constantly evokes positive reaction. We would never have to sit through a bad movie ever again!

Disney are not the only ones using emotion detection. We have seen large entertainment brands and even call centres using pattern recognition technology and machine learning to gather insights on what the consumer really wants.

What does the future look like?

Hopefully this blog has expanded your idea of what voice of customer is. Listening to the customer is the single most important facet for any business strategy and we find that brands are no longer inert robotic corporations but are now readily choosing to interact with their customers letting them know “we hear, value and understand you”. The world of voice of customer continues to grow rapidly simultaneous to improvements in technology, and I personally can’t wait to see where we will find ourselves a few years from now!



Badar Raja

Consultant, Capgemini Invent, Insight Driven Enterprise

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