Who is the Voice of the Customer?

The voice of the customer is a very important person in any company. This is the person that sees things the way your customers see them. This is the person that raises their hand in a meeting and tells you that the customer is not going to like a new policy or feature. This is the person who is going to evaluate all internal decisions based on the impact on existing customers.

Without the voice of the customer, your company will be out of touch. You will be making decisions that executives see as best for the business without anyone to say whether or not customers are going to be happy.

What Qualifies Someone to Be the Voice of the Customer?

There are numerous positions in each company that could conceivably take on this role. Whoever it is has to have an intimate knowledge of who the customer is and why they do business with your company. They don’t have to speak directly to customers on a regular basis, but it certainly helps.

The voice of the customer should have a certain level of authority and decision-making power within the company. They have to have a seat at the table, so that the voice of the customer is heard when it matters most.

There is a case to be made that the person in charge is the voice of the customer. And at many start-ups and small businesses, the leader is the person that can fill that role. But the many responsibilities of the business leader or CEO will lead, sooner or later, to the voice of the customer role taking a back seat to the job of running the business.

A case can also be made for sales or customer service to represent the voice of the customer. Those teams are on the front lines, the ones who are dealing with customers day in and day out. But questions arise over whether these teams have enough internal power to ensure that the voice of the customer is included in all major decisions.

In many businesses, it is the product management team that must act as the voice of the customer. This team is responsible for the product, and a product is only as good as its ability to meet the needs of its customers. Product leads must work to incorporate customer’s wants and needs into the product, and can represent the very same to the overall business.

What Does the Voice of the Customer Do?

The voice of the customer has a number of responsibilities, most of them informal.

  1. Push for policies that are favorable to the customer and against policies that inhibit the customer experience.

  2. Push for new product features that would improve the overall satisfaction of the customer.

  3. Remind others within the organization to keep the customer in mind in everything that they do.

  4. Remind executives who the customer is and how their decisions will impact them.

  5. Make the case for pricing terms that are favorable to the customer.

In a sense, the voice of the customer is just what it sounds like. This person represents the customer interest in all things. It is as if you are giving your customers a seat at the table.

Who Should Be the Voice of the Customer?

No matter what their title, the person in your company who should be the voice of the customer has to be dedicated and fearless.

The person who will be successful in this role will do whatever it takes to understand customers better. They will get on the phone, send out emails, and hit the road to talk to customers. They will know what they like and don’t like about the product, why they chose your company over the competition, how they use your product, and more.

And they will not be afraid to share this information and speak up when it matters most. Whether it’s a meeting with their team, or a bunch of executives sitting around the conference room table getting ready to make a critical business decision. This person will have no problem speaking up.

How to Use Your Customer's Voice to Create Powerful Content That Converts (Guest Post)

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The following is a guest post be Brooklin Nash. Brooklin writes about the latest tools and small business trends for TrustRadius. When he’s not writing, you can find him reading YA dystopian fiction (with guilty pleasure) and cooking.

Creating content that converts may be easier said than done, but the concept is relatively simple. You are looking for content that connects with your target audience and encourages them to move forward in the purchasing decision.

The Power of Your Customer’s Voice

These days, companies have a powerful tool at their disposal: their customers. When approached in the right way, customers are no longer just customers. They can be brand ambassadors - and their voice often speaks louder than your run of the mill marketing content.

Customers now have a worldwide public forum at their fingertips, in the form of social media and review platforms. 90% of online users rely on customer reviews to make a purchase decision. At the same time, people have learned to trust customer reviews nearly as much as a recommendation from a friend.

It’s clear your customers have an opinion and a voice to be shared. So how can you harness your customer’s voice to create content that converts?

Tip #1: Recognize the Power of User-generated Content

The very first step is to recognize just how powerful user reviews can be. Authentic reviews give a voice to your customers, and your customer’s voice give authenticity to your brand. People receive vast amounts of information online, and your company is likely to stand out if it features authentic reviews over marketing language. Incorporating reviews into content marketing has the added benefit of helping out your SEO.

Tip #2: Identify & Own Review Listings

As you get started using your customer’s voice for content, you should make sure you have all the sources you need. Use a backlink research tool to identify which review platforms your company is listed on, and then take the steps to own those listings. This will give you more to work with and make sure only the best information is out there.

Tip #3: Focus on a Variety of Authentic Reviewers

In building up reviews, you should make an effort to get recieve reviews from a broad range of customers. Avoid cherry picking from one set of customers. This is important for a couple of reasons: first, buyers usually look for reviews from people in similar roles and, second, buyers are usually wary of listings with only positive reviews. It can take some time to build up steam, but don’t lose hope! Authentic reviews from a variety of customers will be much better in the long run than positive reviews from a small set of customers.

Tip #4: Leverage Your Customer’s Voice into Powerful Content

Online review platforms can give you a leg up on your competition, but you should also take the active step of changing customer reviews into content. This can take the form of a landing page that features customer quotes, case studies about how you helped specific clients, or social media posts that engage with your customers. All of this is content that is more likely to convert, primarily because they feature your customer’s voice.

Tip #5: Stay Engaged!

Leveraging your customer’s voice is not a passive activity. It takes quite a bit of work - and will be well worth it! Once reviews start to come in, stay engaged with both customers and your target audience. Respond to reviews - both negative and positive. Thanking a customer for leaving a review will show loyalty, and responding to negative reviews will show engagement.

Social listening tools can also help you see what comments, questions and complaints are arising about your brand.

All in all, authentic content is content that converts. Using your customer’s voice will help your brand become more authentic. So start with these tips today!

What Can You Do for Your Customers?

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So you want something from your customers? You want them to advocate for your company, to refer their friends to your products, to share your content online, and review your business on Yelp.

“Why should I?” is the question you should imagine them asking you.

If you want them to do something for you, you need to do something for them.

“But I already gave them my amazing product,” you say.

They paid you for that. They did what you asked. Transaction complete. If you want them to do something to help you, you need to do more than simply deliver what they expected. You need to go beyond their expectations.

Here’s how…

1) Proactively reach out to assist

Most companies work so hard to sell their products and then completely forget about the purchaser immediately after. We think that if they need our help, they’ll ask. But the truth is that most people won’t. They will suffer in silence because they don’t have the time, don’t know who to contact, or they will decide it’s easier just to switch to your competitor than deal with it.

You can exceed their expectations by reaching out to ask about their experience. Ask if they need help with anything. Ask how they have enjoyed your product or service. Did it solve their problems? Address their needs? If not, what can you do to make things better?

2) Give them a free upgrade

Let’s say you have just come out with a new model or have improved the service that you offer. Do you reward your customers by automatically giving them the latest and greatest version?

Perhaps this runs against your business model. Perhaps you rely on customer upgrades as a revenue source.

But offering a free upgrade is a surefire way to exceed their expectations and turn customers into advocates for your business. That might be even more valuable than them purchasing the upgrade.

3) Enroll them into a loyalty program

If you don’t already have a customer loyalty program, consider the opportunity to deliver added value to your customers. You might offer discounts on other products, exclusive offerings, news and information related to their interests, and more.

Getting invited to join a loyalty program provides incentive to continue to engage with your brand in a positive way.

4) Connect them with likeminded people

Many successful brands have built a community aspect into their customer experience. Think Apple, Harley Davidson, and Canon. These companies offer experiences that bring their fans together in the real world.

Customer communities become natural places for new ideas and innovation. By giving your customers access to one another, you help them solve their problems and generate critical feedback for the business.

5) Say thank you

It may sound corny to business-minded folks, but simple acts of gratitude will go a long way with your customers. Think about the brands that you interact with. How many take the time to thank you for your business, really thank you?

Saying thank you is a way to deliver a human touch to a monetary transaction, laying the groundwork to a relationship beyond that one purchase.

When a 5-star Yelp Review Doesn’t Help Your Business

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If you run a business, Yelp can either be your best friend or your worst enemy.

Stories abound about the businesses that have been ruined by Yelp reviews. And I’m sure just as many local businesses have flourished, in part because of the positive experience of customers who raved about their experience on the platform.

The truth nowadays is, managing Yelp is a part of managing a business. Whether you like it or not, customers use it. They are going to review their experiences, and others are going to read those reviews when they are deciding whether or not to try you out. So the best thing you can do is have a plan, or a strategy, in place to solicit positive reviews and respond to negative ones.

But not all reviews are built the same. Some have a greater impact than others. And some have no impact whatsoever.

One would think that a 5-star review is a great thing. If you are managing a business, or it is your job to manage the reputation of a company on Yelp, a 5-star review is the holy grail.

Here’s where it gets a little shady.

Over the years, Yelp has consistently changed their policies on reviews. Early on, those business that advertised on Yelp had a lot of control over what reviews showed up on the platform and which did not – giving an unfair advantage to businesses with deeper pockets. A lawsuit ended this practice, or at least drove it further underground.

Today, Yelp relies on an algorithm to determine which reviews are “recommended” and which are not. Reviews that are not recommended are hidden. Businesses can still see them, but they do not show up for users, and they do not impact the overall rating shown on the Yelp listing for that company.

So some 5-star reviews (and some 4-star, 3-star, and so on) don’t count.

Yelp tells companies that a review will not be recommended if it is done by an inactive user. They also say the algorithm will identify reviews that were clearly provided because the company asked for it, anything that looks too much like a testimonial.

(Anyone that can tell me the difference between a testimonial and a positive review knows more than I do about the English language)

Yelp’s official policy is that companies should not ask for reviews from their customers (though they still supply window decals and other signage that suggests the opposite is true). So the only reviews their algorithm is supposed to recommend are the ones that look natural, like a frequent user supplied an unbiased review without any suggestion from the business.

To those of you out there whose job it is to manage a presence on Yelp, I feel for you.

Ethical Questions for Marketers – Part 11

Welcome to the newest installment of our weekly blog series, Ethical Questions for Marketers. Each week we plan to introduce a new topic and explore it in detail, preparing marketers for the day when they face such a problem at their organization.

Last week’s topic was Spam.

This week’s topic: Chatbots

Chatbots are a state-of-the-art technology that is allowing companies to automate customer interaction in a way that saves money and provides a better, more consistent user experience. The most sophisticated chatbot technology utilizes artificial intelligence to get smarter over time and provide quality service in an efficient manner.

The technology is still new, and will continue to improve exponentially. So now is the time for brands to begin to learn about how they might deploy chatbots to work for them.

Already, companies from Dominos to General Electric to Uber are using chatbots in some form or another. Whether they’re used for customer service, sales support, product demos, or ordering, marketing teams will use chatbots across a variety of industries and functions in the next decade.

The ethical question we need to ask ourselves is this – how important is it for consumers to know when they are talking to a bot vs. when they are talking to a human being? In the cases where someone receives high-quality service, accomplishes what they set out to, or gets the answers to their questions, this may not matter. In those cases, a bot is just as good as a human, maybe even better.

But in the cases where the interaction is negative, where the answers don’t come, or the customer is left unsatisfied, we have an issue. Was it the bot’s fault? Would a human have handled a situation better?

Since the technology is still so new, most customers today will assume that they are talking to a human being every time, until something or someone tells them otherwise. But in the near future, it may be commonplace to talk to bots, so much so that we assume we are talking to a bot unless proven otherwise.

If I, as a customer, think I am talking to a real person on the other end, is it the company’s responsibility to inform me when I’m not? I don’t know the answer to that, but I tend to err on the side of transparency. It is certainly something that industries and brands are going to have to decide before too much longer.

Stay tuned next week for another installment of our Ethical Questions for Marketers series. If you have an ethical topic you’d like to see addressed, write us.