When it comes to marketing using the Voice of the Customer, the first step in creating such a program is collecting feedback and aggregating it across the channels where customers are giving it.

In this article we cover:

  • The types of feedback categories,
  • The differences between transactional and in-depth feedback,
  • How to determine if you have enough feedback for your process, and
  • How you can go about collecting additional feedback.

Types of feedback categories

Feedback can be broken down into two categories: Quantitative and Qualitative.

  • Numbers, such as website traffic can measure quantitative feedback, number of clicks, and user behavior.
  • Qualitative feedback is more descriptive and explanatory and includes open comments, suggestions, and complaints.

For this exercise, we want to start with qualitative feedback to understand our customers' trends, motivations, and needs. Then, we can layer in the quantitative data to understand how perceived needs differ from actual behavior.

We will start by mapping out all the places where customers are already giving qualitative feedback across the company. Then we can identify gaps to see if we need to implement additional feedback collection channels like surveys and interviews.

Finally, we will aggregate all of this feedback together to create a central source of truth.

Transactional vs in-depth feedback

Let’s dig into the different types of qualitative feedback we might want to analyze as a part of our Voice of the Customer program.

When we think about our channels of qualitative feedback, we can break them down into two groups: transactional feedback channels and in-depth feedback channels.

Transactional feedback channels

Transactional feedback channels are everyday places where customers are giving you feedback, like NPS surveys, support tickets, and online reviews. These feedback channels allow us to identify trends and themes that we can explore in deeper detail with in-depth feedback channels, like customer interviews.

The benefit of transactional listening channels is that they do not require over-burdening the customer to get their insights, and can be used to provide direction in getting more feedback.

Transactional listening channels are also less expensive than in-depth channels, so you can optimize your spend by identifying high-level themes in these lower-touch feedback sources, and using those themes to guide customer interviews.

Some examples

Here are some examples of transactional feedback channels, and the type of insights you can gain from them. Online review sites are a great source of feedback, as they are being used by our customers to drive purchase decisions.

  • For B2B companies, common review sites include G2, Capterra, TrustRadius, Trust Pilota and Gartner Peer Reviews.
  • For B2C companies, common review sites include Trust Pilot, Facebook Reviews, App Stores, Yelp, and Google Reviews.
  • Feedback shared on these sites helps us understand what customers perceive as our strengths and weaknesses.
  • Prioritize this channel not just for brand awareness and leads, but for constant learning and improvement.

Communities and Online Forums are other great channels of feedback where customers often share questions, product issues, and success stories.

Qualitative Net Promoter Scores (NPS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), and other surveys are also great channels for customer feedback. In addition to asking customers whether or not they’re likely to recommend your company or your products and services, ask them about their experience.

Understanding the feedback driving the NPS will provide guidance as to whether you should start, stop, or continue dedicating resources to specific initiatives.

Additional transactional feedback channels include customer support tickets, product feature requests, and win/loss notes from sales and customer success calls that are stored in your CRM.

In-depth feedback channels

Once you’ve identified high-level insights from transactional feedback channels, you can dig deeper with in-depth feedback channels, like customer interviews, which allow you to test out your hypotheses.

The benefit of these listening channels is that you can go deep into customer needs, and uncover new insights by asking customers questions directly. In-depth feedback channels can also build stronger relationships with customers, and allow them to feel heard.

Some examples

Here are some examples of in-depth feedback channels:

Customer interviews are a strong source of feedback and can either be performed by your team or third parties. We will go into more detail on how to structure and use customer interviews later in the course.

Sales and success call transcripts are another great source of in-depth feedback. With conversation intelligence tools like Gong and Chorus, it’s easier than ever to capture direct customer insights from frontline calls to incorporate into your customer and market research programs.

Finally, transcripts from win/loss calls can provide great insight into why a customer may choose your product or service over competitors and vice versa.

Determining if you have enough customer feedback

One common question that comes up when starting a Voice of the Customer program is “Do I have enough customer feedback?” If you are just starting to implement new channels for collecting feedback, start small and expand.

You don’t need hundreds of thousands of responses to take action, a few hundred data points is enough to start understanding themes and taking action. When you are thinking about how much data you need, sample size depends on your total population AND how many ways you want to slice the data.

Statistically speaking, the central limit theorem says that thirty samples are the smallest amount to be significant. But that is thirty samples from a homogeneous population (customers that look alike). If you want to compare industries, you’d want a strong sample from each industry.

To determine if you need to get more feedback from customers, start with the question you are trying to answer.

For example, let’s say your goal is to understand the overall pains and needs of your customer base to ensure you are positioning your solutions in the most powerful way possible.

Start by reviewing your existing channels

Start by reviewing your existing channels of feedback, and identifying whether you can understand pains and needs at a high level.

For example, if you look at your online reviews, you will probably find themes around why customers bought your solution and the problems you solve. Let’s say you start to notice a trend around customers who buy your product expressing their need for better reporting so they can make more informed decisions.

But you might then want to understand exactly which types of decisions customers need to make with your product, or if certain customers make different decisions than others.

Then you can decide to gather additional insights via surveys or customer interviews.

Collecting additional feedback via surveys and interviews

Now let’s cover some best practices for how you can collect additional feedback via surveys and interviews.

If you have determined you need to collect additional feedback to achieve your desired insights, the best place to start is again by setting clear goals for the insights you want to gain, and the action you want to inform.

Continuing from our previous example, the goal of our research would be to understand the types of decisions customers need to make using your product.

  • The action you want to inform would be to create more relevant positioning.
  • A secondary action would be to inform the product roadmap, as you may uncover product gaps in the process that would be relevant to your product management team.

Once we have set clear goals for what we want to learn and how we will act on the learnings, we can focus on who we want to learn from. We need to make sure the sample of customers we select is representative of the total population that we are aiming to understand.

Start with your goal.

Going off our previous example, is the goal to create more relevant positioning at a higher level, or to specifically target a certain customer segment or persona?

If your insights are high-level, your research will be broader, so it would make sense to do a customer survey where you can get more responses, and then analyze those responses to uncover specific trends and themes by personas and customer segment.

Segmentation criteria

When sending surveys, you want to use segmentation criteria to try to match the distribution of your responses with the distribution of your customer base.

Segmentation criteria can include:

  • Firmographic data (industry, vertical, size)
  • Demographic data (age, income, occupation)
  • Products and Offerings
  • Customer Spend and Lifecycle Stage

Identify your key segmentation variables and use those to guide the distribution of your survey responses.

For example, let’s say we use customer spend as a key segmentation variable, and eighty percent of your customers are paying you less than five thousand dollars per year and twenty percent are paying more than five thousand dollars per year.

When we create a survey to extrapolate broad insights, we will want to make sure the proportions are reflected.

If we survey one hundred customers, and ninety percent of them are paying more than five thousand dollars per year, this segment would skew the results in a way that is not representative of the total population.

By creating “quotas” for the number of responses you aim to achieve by customer segment, you improve the significance of the findings and make it possible to compare different trends within groups.

This exercise may then lead you to uncover insights for a specific persona that you want to go deeper into with customer interviews.

Customer interviews

Interviews are a good choice if you already have some hypotheses to work from, if you have a smaller customer base, or if you want to achieve very targeted insights.

The more specific your segmentation criteria are, the smaller your target population will be, and the more it makes sense to go deeper with highly-focused customer interviews.

For example, let’s say you are aiming to create more powerful positioning to target customers that spend more than five thousand dollars per year.

Your research should then only include customers that spend more than five thousand dollars. Since that represents only twenty percent of your customer base, you are not going to get a high volume of responses, so it is more effective to go deeper with customer interviews.

When selecting which customers to ask for interviews, start again with the insights you wish to gain: in this example, the types of decisions customers need to make using your product. Go back to your transactional data like online reviews and surveys, and look for customers who spend more than five thousand dollars.

Now identify customers who may have given feedback related to this insight in the past.

For example, let’s say a customer in your target segment gave an online review that said “I love this product because it helps me optimize my marketing spend.”

This would be a great customer to solicit for an interview because they have already hinted that they can answer your question around which types of decisions customers need to make using your product. They are more likely to participate in the survey because it is a topic they are interested in, which also makes them more likely to provide valuable in-depth feedback.

As a last check before sending surveys or interview requests to your selected customers, make sure that you are not duplicating efforts with other surveys or interviews that could have been recently sent to the customer.

It’s a good idea to review your CRM, and if possible check with the customer’s account manager, to ensure that you are not overburdening the customer with requests (and detracting from their experience as a result).

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