For B2B brands managing complex relationships with large accounts, a voice of the customer (VoC) program is a no-brainer. When done right, it can help you drive customer satisfaction and cultivate a revenue-building network of referrals.
Voice of customer is the name for the processes, systems, and techniques by which you gather feedback to fully understand your customers.
A VoC program takes customer feedback and makes it many times more valuable.
Beyond straightforward feedback, VoC helps you listen to your customers (wherever they are) to understand their behavior and build a solid plan for action to improve retention.
In this article, we show you how to build a voice of the customer program for B2B that works. Let’s start from scratch.
Why a Voice of the Customer Program is a Must for B2B
For B2B brands, a simple customer experience (CX) framework often won’t be enough to get real value from your engagements with your customers.
Why? Here’s CustomerGauge’s VP for Education, Cary T. Self, with an answer he gave in a recent interview:
“The biggest misconception that we hear when talking to B2B companies is that a customer experience system will do the trick. But the reality is that a B2B voice of the customer program is significantly more dynamic than a simple CX program.
“Think of it this way. Customer experience is very one dimensional—it usually consists of one person speaking to one person getting feedback and putting out a fire. With Account Experience, CustomerGauge’s B2B VoC program, companies are able to measure the relationship between multiple departments and multiple levels of an organization.”
B2B businesses are very different to B2Cs — and your VoC program should reflect that.
Here’s what VoC systems can do that the standard customer experience can’t:
VoC can handle the complexity of B2B relationships. In B2C, a company talks directly to individual consumers who are typically very similar in their buying patterns. In B2B, customer accounts are made up of many different individuals with all kinds of perspectives, and, with VoC, you can address all of them.
VoC doesn’t rely on active data collection. Customer feedback programs often require you to reach out to customers and ask them what they think about you. But, what happens when customers don’t reply? (Our data shows that you’ll only get a response from 12.4% on average.) To get a full sense of customer sentiment, you need to track engagement metrics, too.
VoC drives targeted action. By collecting many different data streams from your customers, VoC helps you put the right solutions in place to tackle your customer problems. Of course, CX can do that too — but VoC provides many more data streams to help you be better informed.
What A Successful VoC Program Includes
We say that VoC programs are much more effective than CX, and it’s true.
However, not all VoC programs are built the same, nor can they produce the same results.
To be truly effective, your VoC program needs to include the following:
It must tie customer sentiment data to revenue. In B2B, one of your customer accounts can literally be 100 times larger than another. To understand where to prioritize your resources (and see how much value is at risk of churn) your VoC program must directly link experience data to your revenue.
(By the way, in our The State of B2B Account Experience report, we found that only 30% of B2B brands tie their VoC data to financial metrics. The others are missing really important insights.)
It should be focused on action. Collecting data is only half the battle. To have an impact, both on customer satisfaction and revenue growth, your VoC efforts should be focused on action. Any VoC program worth its salt should create a structure to help you act on customer feedback and close the loop fast.
It must be supported by software. Given the complexity of B2B accounts, any VoC activity you perform must be backed up by a software that can handle it.
Here’s Cary T. Self again, on CustomerGauge’s Account Experience tool:
“Account Experience is able to go beyond just survey responses in a B2B voice of the customer program, showing metrics like response rate, speed of closing the loop, growth over time, and usage. With this insight, our customers can see beyond a single survey response and get a full 360-degree view of all the true indicators of the customer experience.
“Layer revenue in on top of that, and companies now can quickly see how much each area of their business is contributing or detracting from the overall growth of the company.”
How to Build a Voice of Customer Program
So, how to build your VoC program?
Let’s run through 6 simple steps to get you off the ground.
1. Get Buy-In from Your Team
Your first job is to get buy-in from across your organization.
Persuading the rest of your business of the importance of VoC might feel like the trickiest step of all.
But, while it’s absolutely fundamental for success, it doesn’t have to be a struggle.
Take three steps here:
Share the benefits of voice of the customer. VoC helps you create trusting and satisfied customers, identify opportunities for growth, and cut costs of customer acquisition. When making the case for VoC adoption, these benefits should stay front of mind.
Demonstrate the cost of doing nothing. In customer experience, it’s not just the shiny new softwares that cost you money. Doing nothing can be a serious financial drain, too. By not satisfying your customers, you’re letting those customers churn — and take your revenue with them. Find out the cost of doing nothing with our ROI calculator.
Win over the c-suite first. Individuals across your organization might be resistant to change. By getting your senior managers onboard first, you’ll be in a much stronger position.
2. Set SMART Goals
Setting goals from the get-go helps you create alignment, build motivation, and envision success.
Yet, our research shows that 42% of companies aren’t setting goals for their VoC programs, meaning they don’t have a timeline for success.
That’s not a position you want to be in.
SMART goals can make the difference. These are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound goals that provide a robust basis for structured progress.
Remember, there’s nothing wrong with starting small. In VoC, what matters is just getting started. As Cary says:
“Do not delay! If you’re waiting for perfection in your program or for all your data to be clean, you’ve missed the point. We’re all losing customers because our VoC is not perfect! Or even close. We all have flaws and opportunities to improve.
“The purpose of the program is not to wait until everything is fixed to maintain, it’s to identify what our customers are not happy with and improve.”
3. Run NPS Surveys
The heart of your VoC program will be the Net Promoter Score (NPS), the most widely used, simplest, and most effective customer surveying tool out there.
NPS surveys work by asking your customers how likely they are to recommend your product or service on a scale of 0-10.
Based on their responses, you can divide your customers into promoters (enthusiastic and loyal customers), passives, and detractors (those who are at high risk of churn).
This information gives you a solid grounding for understanding your overall levels of customer satisfaction.
And, more importantly, it helps you investigate why customers are satisfied or not. These insights, gathered through NPS driver questions, will be the most important information for your action strategy.
For your surveys to be successful, follow these best practices:
Optimize your response rate. We shared above that the average response rate is 12.4%. You should aim much higher. Our client ICON Communications managed to secure a 100% response rate.
Survey as many people as possible within an organization. When there are so many individuals within a B2B account, surveying just one of them won’t give you an accurate sense of sentiment. What’s more, surveying multiple contacts can double your retention rate.
Run transactional and relationship surveys. Relationship surveys regularly check the pulse of your customer relationship. Transactional surveys ask customers about specific touchpoints. Use both in your VoC program.
4. Close the Loop
Once you’ve run your customer survey, don’t stop there.
For every response you get, you should act on the feedback and tell your customers what you’ve done.
Follow these tips to ensure you’re closing the loop well:
Act fast. We recommend you close the loop with customers within 48 hours.
Get your whole organization involved. From your C-Suite to your frontline, everyone has a role to play.
Set goals. Like everything else you do in your business, closing the loop should be led by goals. It will help you act faster and boost retention.
5. Track Engagement Metrics
Building a VoC program around NPS is good practice. But, don’t forget the other ways that customers express their sentiments to you.
These include engagement metrics — i.e. the number of times and channels through which customers use or engage with your brand.
These give you a sense of what your customers aren’t saying.
They can include:
Product activity. How many times are customers logging into your product or showing other signs of activity?
Support requests. Are customers regularly asking for help? It could show that they’re really into your product, or that frustration is building.
At CustomerGauge, we recognize that absence of signal is one of the major predictors of customer churn. Intervene before your customers disappear.
6. Use VoC Data to Drive Growth
With your VoC program churning out plenty of customer sentiment data, it’s your job to put that information to work.
Stage 6 involves using all the data you’ve collected to identify, and take advantage of, opportunities for growth.
In short, that means:
Target upsells and cross-sales. Your most satisfied customers are likely to spend more with you. In fact, it’s estimated that the 20% of most satisfied customers will provide you with 80% of your profits. Focus your reselling campaigns on these.
Encourage referrals. A VoC program is the start of a referral strategy. Your satisfied customers can bring in further revenue by recommending you to their colleagues and peers.
Intervene with churn risks. Detractors or unsatisfied customers are likely to churn. Saving them by closing the loop or offering an incentive to stay will be essential for maintaining revenue growth.
Get Started On Your VoC Program With CustomerGauge
At CustomerGauge, we help our clients listen more closely to their customers, reduce churn, and build a powerful system for customer referrals.
We can help you, too. Get in touch with our VoC experts to find out how!