Voice of the Customer (VoC) data gives B2B organizations deeper insights into the business of their target customers so they can build, market, sell, and deliver higher-value products and services that lead to more consistent and predictable growth.
In B2B though, voice of customer data is used for more than just products. It’s the foundation for the organization’s strategy and the key to well-coordinated execution plans across product management, product marketing, sales, and customer success disciplines.
What is VoC and How is it Different in B2B?
Voice of the customer (VoC) is a research methodology that creates a composite “customer voice” and guides everything from corporate strategy to the entire customer journey.
The thing that’s most different in VoC in B2B is the definition of the customer. In B2B, the customer is the “customer organization,” not just the users of your products and services. That definition changes everything about how voice of customer data is gathered.
In a consumer product world, social media, product reviews, customer surveys, and website behavior tell you a lot about your customers. It’s not that these techniques aren’t useful in B2B. It’s the fact that data from these methods only give you a small slice of what you really need to fully understand the customer organization.
In B2B, gathering voice of customer data starts at the top of the customer organization in the C-suite and eventually ends down in the trenches where your users reside. In other words, there are multiple layers of the customer’s voice that are critical to capture for a well-rounded understanding of the customer.
Benefits of Using a Single Voice of Customer
In a B2B organization, everyone that interacts with customers sees them differently because of the responsibilities and objectives that go with each role. Those different perspectives result in silos, and those silos result in different agendas where priorities often conflict. If you’re in the customer’s shoes, imagine how it comes across when people from the same organization see you differently.
Product management, product marketing, corporate marketing sales, on-boarding, customer support, and customer success teams are all serving the same customers. Because each has a different objective, they only see the customer through the lens of their role, meaning each of them only has a partial view of the customer.
A single voice of customer provides a common foundation for all customer-facing disciplines so that they’re always operating with a holistic perspective on how their role and their objectives impact the bigger picture of what’s most important to the customer from the top down.
Ultimately, keeping your finger on the pulse of VoC allows you to build, market, sell and deliver products that better serve your customers by delivering the results they’re looking for.
5 Most Effective Techniques for Collecting Voice of Customer Data
Every customer and prospect interaction, regardless of how it occurs, is an opportunity to collect VoC data. If your primary objective is understanding the big-picture dynamics of the entire customer organization and the impact to areas where your products/services are relevant, here are the five most effective ways to collect VoC data in B2B.
1. Customer Discovery Interviews
The best thing about customer discovery interviews is that there’s one and only one purpose – pure discovery. You’re not there to resolve product issues. There’s no tip-toeing around a sales situation. Renewals aren’t front and center. It’s a pure fact-finding mission.
Customers agree to share their top-down priorities, why they’re critical to the business, the impact on departments where your products are relevant, and what they’re doing to execute on those priorities. Pure gold!
2. Advisory Boards & Focus Groups
In most advisory boards and focus group meetings, the solution providers do too much talking and not enough listening. It should be just the opposite. The discussions can go down the rabbit hole in a hurry and turn into technical product conversations.
While advisory boards and focus groups are good for vetting ideas, prototypes, new features, and product usability, their primary purpose is the exact same as the customer interviews described above, but in a group setting. You’ll typically get better insights into the operations of your customers since you’re interacting with managers responsible for or directly managing the day-to-day.
The great thing about doing customer discovery in a group setting is that you quickly find out which business initiatives are universally important to your target markets and where they differ. The other thing your customers find out (that’s valuable to you) is they’re not all as different as they think they are!
3. One-on-One Customer & Prospect Conversations
These conversations happen in a variety of situations that run the gamut, from sales situations to customer issue meetings to someone you meet at a conference or trade show that is a potential customer.
Once again, the objective is the same – to understand their top-down priorities, why they’re critical to the business, the impact on the departments where your products are relevant, and how they’re dealing with those priorities.
Learn more: How to Create a B2B Sales Demo Script
4. Surveys & Questionnaires
Surveys and questionnaires can be useful in gathering voice of customer data at all levels of the customer organization. They’re also useful for gathering data as a precursor to your strategies and priorities as well as after-the-fact feedback on the customer’s experience with a host of interactions with your organization.
The biggest mistake most surveys and questionnaires make is they’re too broad. They try to gather too much information and ask a lot of leading questions. Focus on a specific objective and ask questions without bias to your products and these formats deliver great voice of customer data.
5. Feedback Forms
Feedback forms are great for capturing voice of customer data after customers have experienced your product or service. The golden nuggets in feedback forms are twofold.
First, they give you greater insights into how customers actually use your products. There are always a few jaw-droppers here.
Second, you often find out customers use your products for something you never intended but have an extremely high value.
In both cases, these data points should go back into the VoC funnel and be used for future plans where appropriate.
The Difficult Part in B2B – Unstructured Data
We live in a world where we’re used to automating data collection on everything with the ability to slice and dice it in a structured fashion. The toughest thing about collecting big-picture VoC data in B2B is that it’s unstructured data.
Combing through conversations from customer discovery interviews and advisory board meetings can be tedious. Here’s the good news though. In B2B, it’s not hundreds or thousands of conversations and data points. It’s a reasonably small number of interactions that give you a strong representative voice for your key market segments.
When it comes to smaller, more focused initiatives like product feedback or the customer’s experience with support or sales, social media tools, customer reviews, net promoter score (NPS), and customer surveys are very effective tools and provide highly structured analysis of the customer’s experience at a granular level.
Using a Common Voice of Customer Simplifies Everything
There’s no downside to listening to your customers, as long as that “voice” represents your markets at large and not just one or two customers. Aligning your top-down priorities with the top-down priorities of your target customers simplifies everything.
All disciplines operate from a common view of the customer with a singular focus on outcomes that have the greatest strategic value to both the customer organization and yours. Silos, conflicting priorities, and competition for resources are kept at bay!
Here’s the one thing to keep in mind when it comes to VoC. It tells you what your target customers are doing, why their priorities are critical and the obstacles standing in their way. While it’s the strongest guide to your priorities, it’s not always an exact recipe for what you should do.
Don’t forget to read between the lines in your VoC data, as those hidden insights are where your best opportunities lie to do something truly innovative and valuable to the market.
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by John Mansour on January 27, 2023.