In the age of experience, companies need to listen to their customers if they want to remain relevant and competitive in the market. In fact, Gartner says that 89% of companies expect to be competing mainly on customer experience by now.

And this is especially true for companies that offer digital products or services. If you manage to anticipate the needs of your customers and translate them into your product through thoughtful design and functionality, you’ll be among the companies that ‘get’ their customers.

What’s the business benefit of this you may ask? There are many, actually: creating points of differentiation, shorter sales cycles, fewer support tickets, brand loyalty, just to name a few.

Source: superoffice.com

But how do you systematically integrate customers into the product development process? Enter voice-of-the-customer (VoC), a process of capturing customer’s expectations, preferences, likes, and dislikes across multiple touchpoints and then using this feedback to inform UX enhancements and continually improve your product.

In short, a successful VoC program enables you to collect and analyze customer feedback to build and launch new products and features that focus on their needs.

How to adapt VoC for your product development process

Voice of the Customer process can be custom built to support the specific needs and goals of your organization but here we want to focus on one area where it can make a huge difference - product development and innovation.

Customer feedback can be used to understand new trends, improve your existing product, and even to develop new and innovative solutions. But how do you effectively capture feedback?

You’re going to use different methods and channels to collect both quantitative data (surveys, sentiment analysis, in-app or web analytics, NPS, etc.) and qualitative data (user  interviews, focus groups, on-site and remote usability testing).

You also need to make sure that designers, developers, and customer facing teams who actually deliver the end product to the customer are aware of VoC and understand how to best leverage the program.

Here at SpiceFactory, we take qualitative user research seriously and we incorporate it in our product design and development process, both for internal and client projects. This helps us determine product direction during requirements development, enabling us to build a solid foundation for the new product.

For existing products, quantitative data also has to be a part of the feedback loop. How else are you going to get well-rounded feedback from a large number of people who are already using your product?

In addition to VoC methods we mentioned above, you may need to leverage some additional channels that are specific to your product and that can reveal important insights.

If you want this program to work, here are 3 key things to keep in mind:

  • Establish VoC accountability across the product development lifecycle
  • Ensure collaboration between product and customer-facing team members
  • Enable access to best practices.

Quantitative and qualitative data that you gather and analyze work together to fill in the blanks that would be left if you only relied on one type of customer feedback.

Categorize VoC data so it works for you

Someone in your team needs to deal with the analysis and categorization of VoC data in order to make it actionable. First, you need to figure out what the majority of users are reporting and then create categories based on patterns that emerge from data. Let me give you a couple of useful examples:

Improvement suggestions. Your customers may have requests related to new features that could improve your product and help differentiate it from competition. If you notice a trend for specific feature request, communicate this to the product manager so they can prioritize their roadmap.

Product issues. This category is mainly for UX issues, so if you notice that a number of customers have trouble using a certain feature, make sure your UX team knows about it. Use the data from this category to inform improvements that could make a difference for you product’s usability.

Now, you can (and should) have other categories as well, just make sure to be specific and categorize your VoC data in a way that helps you and your team make meaningful enhancements to your product.

Takeaways

Implementing a Voice of the Customer program takes time, and so does creating a company culture that uses it to make product design and development decisions. If used properly, VoC data can help you create an environment of constant improvement and growth.