Voice of the Customer

“People  buy what they need from those who understand what they want” (Bill Brooks and Tom Travesano).

Learning  what customers want entails listening to the voice of the customer and there are many focused types of market research that often can and should be part of a programme to better understand what customers want.

  • Usage and attitude studies investigate all aspects of the relationship between your customers and your product or service. They can provide the basic foundations for much of your marketing activity by giving you a full understanding of the market you are currently selling into, or planning to target, reveal trends, identify current or possible future problems and establish the demand for related products.  It is only by understanding your customers’ or prospects’ needs and what they are doing and why, that you can deliver the right product or service to them in the right place at the right time.  Usage and attitude studies will recognise that as markets have become more complex, and niche marketing more commonplace, so brand usage, habits and attitudes may differ according to different types of use or different user groups.  Such a study will give you the ability to segment your chosen market according to particular types of use or user groups, thus identifying potential gaps in the market.  For example, you may wish to establish:
  1. who is already using a specific technology/software
  2. who is planning to and why
  3. what they are using it for or planning to use it for
  4. why these chose that solution over any other
  5. why they use their current supplier
  6. any planned changes in use or supplier
  7. the perceived image of the current supplier
  8. an understanding of the decision making process.
  • Image and awareness studies establish how you and your competitors are perceived in the market and has profound implications for the development of your marketing strategy. Seeing your business through the market’s eyes and measuring awareness of your brand will be the basis for highly targeted action that leads to sustained competitive advantage and an increase in brand value.  Those having decision making influence on the purchasing process often make their decisions based partly on their perception of the market position of supplier brands.  They will tend to favour brands that closely match their desired attributes –   determining which attributes are currently most valued by the market will enable market positioning to meet those needs and better equip you to develop positioning statements.  As well as the standard brand image type questions to pose to the selected target recipient audience such as:
  1. How do they perceive your company/product/service?
  2. How do you compare with your market competitors?
  3. What attributes and values are most associated with your company within the target group?
  4. What is the general level of awareness of your company?

Consider breaking awareness questions down further:

  1. Unaided or spontaneous awareness – the extent to which customers/users think of your company or product/service on a “top-of-mind” basis – who comes to mind first
  2. Aided awareness – the extent to which those who know of your company or product/service are familiar with who you actually are or what you provide.

You should then be able to start building a picture of your overall reputation, the quality and appeal of your product/service, the effectiveness of your sales, marketing and customer service/support and how receptive the market is to your cost model.  From there, this information can form the basis of your future marketing and operational strategies, targets, product and service design and market presentation, costs and staff/internal infrastructure.

    • Customer satisfaction studies are vital to understand what is really important to your customers and their views of the product or service you are offering – whether your existing customer base is global, confined to a particular country or region, niche market or cross sector. You have to know what the key drivers for customer loyalty are – and conversely what the causes and effects of customer dissatisfaction are – as the basis for your marketing plans.  A two-staged approach – firstly establishing which areas of products or services are important to your customers (qualitative) and secondly conducting detailed interviews with a large sample of your customers to provide statistically reliable data on the areas identified in the first stage (quantitative) – will maximize your chances of:
      • understanding how your customers perceive your business
      • improving on areas that are failing to match the quality of product or service demanded
      • taking urgent action on groups of customers identified as “at risk”
      • setting realistic targets and effectively monitoring them to be able to react to early warnings of a change in customer expectations
      • monitoring customer loyalty
      • increasing your active customer base – decrease customer acquisition costs while increasing repeat business.
  • Competitor customer satisfaction studies identify what is important to a competitor’s customers, and provides an insight into how they evaluate their supplier. Consider a mix of targets for interview – by company type, company size, industry sector, respondent job function, etc.

Include points such as:

  • how satisfied/dissatisfied are they with the product or service deployed?
  • would they buy from this company again?
  • why/why not?
  • how likely/unlikely are they to recommend the supplier?
  • what would they like to see improved in the competitor’s products/services?
  • what are the best and worst features/elements of the existing product or service?
  • would they consider using an alternative company’s product or service?

Answers to these and other questions will provide you with both market intelligence and specific knowledge of existing opportunities to win competitor’s customers.  Specific areas to focus on internally in order to develop winning strategies, and increase market share and customer satisfaction will be highlighted.

Voice of the Customer

  • Pricing studies can make companies more profitable – increasing prices can have an immediate and significant effect. How to create a pricing strategy, do price research and implement product pricing without lowering sales volumes or upsetting customers is the subject of the Business Advantage white paper 6 Steps to Better Pricing Decisions.
  • And more … talk to us about your business problems and we may together solve them through one of these types of ‘voice of the customer’ market research.
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