Understanding Voice of Customer: CX Mini Masterclass – E39

By May 9, 2019 December 20th, 2019 No Comments
This CX Mini Masterclass explains the Voice of Customer (VOC), how this differs from CX metrics and measures and why understanding customers is key to business success. Show host and customer experience expert, Julia Ahlfeldt, shares an overview of the most popular VOC methodologies and approaches, as well as some practical ideas on how insights can be used to improve CX. If you’ve been looking for clarity on how to shape an effective program for customer insights, this episode is for you.




Distinguishing between Voice of Customer and CX metrics

It’s important to clarify the distinction between customer insight and CX metrics. Organizations will sometimes lump CX metrics in with insights and Voice of the Customer, and this is a mistake. These are both important inputs to a CX management framework, and while they are complementary, they are also distinct, serving different purposes.

Voice of Customer, which is also referred to as Voice of the Customer, “VOC” or customer insight and understanding serves to clarify our knowledge of the context of the customer: Who they are, what they care about, what motivates them, as well as what are their needs and how they look to fulfill these through the marketplace. Think of voice of customer or customer insight as inputs into the design or ongoing refinement of the customer journey. While VOC findings might go as far as exploring how customers perceive or experience your organization’s products and services, VOC isn’t a scorecard on the current delivery of the customer experience.

That’s where CX metrics and measures come in. Metrics and measures give the business some insight into performance against customer experience objectives, and what this means in terms of impact on the bottom line. For a comprehensive definition of metrics, measures and business value, be sure to check out episode 28. For the purposes of today’s conversation, we can think of CX metrics and measures as an evaluation of how things are going or as outputs of the existing journey. Metrics and measures might provide some insight into how customers are reacting to experiences, but there are limitations. Quantitative score-based metrics like NPS and CSAT don’t tell us much about who our customers are or what they are thinking. This is why organizations must have programs in place to both understand customers and measure delivery of the journey. For more information on metrics and measures, be sure to check out episodes 31, 32 and 33, which dive into this topic in great detail.



Customer insight methodologies

It’s undeniable that businesses need to understand their customers, but there are many ways to do this, each with benefits and drawbacks. I like to think of these methodologies in terms of 3 categories:


  1. Observational – this involves gathering data about a customer’s environment and their actions to get more context about who they are and what they do. Findings are great for establishing customer segments, understanding commonalities among consumers and how they navigate the customer journey. Example approaches: ethnographic research, analysis of demographic trends, analysis of customer actions or behaviors against outcomes.
  2. Listening – this includes the evaluation of organic customer-driven commentary (not prompted). Findings can provide rich insights about what customers are thinking, what they value and what they prioritize. This information can be used to improve or innovate customer experiences and provide context around likes/dislikes. Example approaches: analysis of social media feedback or unprompted inbound feedback through support channels, building journey case studies.
  3. Asking – this includes methodologies that incorporate asking questions to prompt responses that provide information about customer opinions or perspectives. These approaches are especially effective for deep-dives into topics that might be identified through observational or listening methodologies. Findings can yield incredibly valuable windows into the mindset of customers. Example approaches: surveys, customer interviews, focus groups.

Of these 3 categories, the asking methodologies are often the most popular, as they are easier for research teams to manage and control. But we must be aware that asking questions always seeds some bias, and that consumers don’t always do what they say they’ll do. Listening methodologies had a lot of potential, but are sometimes quite difficult, as unprompted customer feedback can be messy. This is why organizations should use a mix of all three methodologies to create a robust and comprehensive understanding of who their customers are and what they want.


Want to keep learning about CX?

If you’d like to checkout more of these CX Mini Masterclasses or listen to my longer format CX expert interviews, check out the full listing of episodes for this CX podcast.

And if you are looking to super-charge your CX skills and continue learning, be sure to check out CX University. They have a great array of CXPA accredited training resources available on a flexible monthly subscription plan. Use the code PODCAST10 to get 10% off your first month’s subscription and support this podcast.

Decoding the Customer is a series of customer experience podcasts created and produced by Julia Ahlfeldt, CCXP. Julia is a customer experience strategist, speaker and business advisor. She is a Certified Customer Experience Professional and one of the top experts in customer experience management. To find out more about how Julia can help your business achieve its CX goals, check out her customer experience advisory consulting services (including VOC research and customer insight) or get in touch via email


Julia Ahlfeldt

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