How to put the voice of the customer to work

Many B2B organisations are still struggling with the changing balance of power in an age where buyers are more vocal and have the ability to make informed purchase decisions. Customer empowerment has impacted businesses of all sizes, and brand loyalty is always in the balance.

However, leading organisations are finding ways to turn customer empowerment into a competitive advantage. They are gathering and organising voice of customer (VoC) data from multiple sources to build a clear picture of buyer sentiment, intent and requirements. But they are not simply hoarding this data. They are actively using it to leverage insights then devise cohesive sales and marketing strategies aligned with customer needs to deliver better business performance.

Customer expectations change rapidly, and so must the activities used to address them. It’s not easy to keep pace, but with a measured approach it can be achieved. Gathering, analysing and acting on VoC data can underpin a dynamic cycle where buyer actions are managed intelligently to drive tangible, long term business success.

1. Gather

A single view of customer data is a must-have. Findings from a recent survey we’ve undertaken reveal that businesses today use up to eight channels to capture customer data. Various tools are used, and the information is stored on multiple systems. This results in pockets of data across the business, which increases the risk of delivering inconsistent customer messages. Such silos can wreak havoc on the effectiveness of VoC programs and their elimination needs to be a top priority.

Data should be regarded as a high-value asset. Like all assets, it needs to be properly managed and maintained. Best in class organisations invest in the people, technologies and processes to gather and organise data intelligently. This boosts consistency and efficiency, making it easier to access and interpret data for strategic purposes.  A unified view of customer data is the backbone of an integrated VoC program.

2. Analyse

Taking the step from hoarding to actively using VoC data is a major challenge for many B2B organisations. It requires strategic investment in technologies developed specifically for this purpose.

An integrated VoC solution can either capture information from multiple channels on a single platform or use different systems to capture data then integrate them seamlessly.

A common factor of VoC technologies is the ability to streamline both the collection and analysis of data. There are many solutions available, with tools for reporting, alerting, text analytics, sentiment analytics, business intelligence and predictive analytics. They also facilitate the delivery of insights to relevant stakeholders in a timely fashion. Making the data accessible and digestible through dashboards and visualisation tools empowers stakeholders to use it proactively and in real-time.

Over the past two years, the number of top-performing businesses investing in VoC technologies has more than doubled. This indicates that the strategy of coupling data gathering and analytics works effectively to harness the power of VoC for more effective marketing strategies.

3. Act

The third tactic deployed by top-performing organisations involves personalising customer conversations with the help of data captured across multiple channels. Buyer sentiment and behaviour insights are used to support employees as they tailor each customer interaction to address unique needs.

This approach, which reinterprets and escalates the notion of personalisation, is still in the early stages of adoption. It is sophisticated, and requires a strong foundation of VoC data gathering and analysis.

Brands need to persevere with this challenging final stage. Today’s buyers expect suppliers to understand their precise needs and address them in their own terms. It is more important than ever to use the right channel to deliver the right message at the right time. Any misalignment is likely to result in dissatisfied customers. Best in class firms step up to this challenge through regular analysis of VoC data, monitoring buyer preferences, and finding ways to proactively address evolving needs. This can manifest itself in the use of VoC data analysis to inform strategic business decisions, not just in sales and marketing but across the entire business.

In the digital age, B2B marketers have more data at their disposal than ever before. But more data doesn’t necessarily mean better results. Many organisations are not yet in a position to deliver truly data-driven interactions. They need to invest in the tools, skills and processes to gather data effectively, convert it into insight, then use this insight to earn the right for engagement with potential customers.

The evidence shows that VoC program investment goes hand-in-hand with better business performance. Companies typically experience higher revenue from net new customers and customer referrals. They see better customer lifetime value and cross sell/up sell revenue. They also enjoy better returns on marketing investment and higher increases in annual company revenue.  

B2B marketers need to stop hoarding data and start putting it to work.