Hi, I’m Lauren Culbertson, CEO and Co-founder of LoopVOC, and B2B SaaS product marketer turned entrepreneur. After ten years leading product marketing teams, I left the corporate world to start my own software company solving challenges I faced when using customer feedback to drive product growth.

I believe that when we have the insights to understand what customers need and where our markets are going, we can proactively evolve go-to-market strategies to build, position, and grow the best products.

In this article, we are going to start with the fundamentals of customer and market research, including:

VoC in a customer and market research program

The goal of a customer and market research program is to drive growth. This is possible by using feedback to drive company changes that attract and acquire more happy customers, who are more likely to renew.

In the old days, market and customer research meant sending a few ad hoc surveys to customers and prospects when companies had questions that needed to be answered.

Now we know that customers and prospects are giving feedback all the time, and we need a more systematic way of capturing these insights as they arise.

This systematic process is often called a “Voice of the Customer” (VoC) program. It can also be referred to as a “Voice of the Prospect” or “Voice of the Market” program, but many companies keep it simple as “Voice of the Customer” - referring to past, present, or future customers.

The point is a Voice of the Customer program helps you keep a finger on the pulse of your market by:

  • Collecting and aggregating customer feedback across channels, such as surveys, interviews, online reviews, support tickets, and sales calls.
  • Analyzing feedback to identify top strengths and weaknesses impacting performance.
  • Acting on feedback and communicating with stakeholders to drive product and go-to-market improvements.

Action is the most important part of the research process

Most companies know that listening to customer and market feedback is good for business. But many of us still struggle to take that feedback and turn it into action.

That’s why Voice of the Customer programs have become commonplace in both B2B and B2C software companies.

These programs aim to make feedback more actionable by creating a systematic approach for listening, analyzing, and acting on the information customers provide.

Modern research programs go beyond just sending surveys to customers and prospects

A lot of times, companies think they’ve “checked the box” when they simply ask customers for their feedback. But asking customers for feedback without acting on it creates more problems than simply not asking at all.

Customers lose trust in your company, and become less likely to give feedback in the future, if they don’t see that feedback is being heard and used to drive change.

That’s why it’s critical to get the internal buy-in from cross-functional stakeholders before starting a Voice of the Customer program.

A customer and market research or Voice of the Customer program cannot exist in a silo. You’ll need internal alignment to not only ask for feedback in the right channels, but to actually turn customer feedback into product, customer experience, and Go-To-Market strategies.

At a high level, the critical stakeholders for getting buy-in for a Voice of the Customer / research program are:  

  • Your product team - who’ll use customer feedback to guide product roadmap.
  • Your broader marketing teams - who’ll use customer feedback to create stronger messaging and positioning.
  • Your sales and customer success teams - who’ll use customer feedback to set better expectations in the sales process and across the customer journey.

Getting cross-functional buy-in for a voice of the customer program

Getting a Voice of the Customer program off the ground starts with aligning functional stakeholders. Without a shared vision and goals across the organization, we lack the authority to enact change company-wide.

Since customer feedback comes from almost every department, whether it’s product management, marketing, sales, or customer success, it’s critical to break down the silos to get buy-in to:

  • Share customer feedback data to create a central source of truth.
  • Commit to regular reviews of feedback trends to identify opportunities and threats.
  • Use learnings to adjust functional strategies.

To achieve cross-functional buy-in, we can start by mapping out the stakeholders that’ll need to be involved in the program. This usually includes:

  • Customer Marketing
  • Product Marketing
  • Product Management
  • Customer Success
  • Sales and,
  • Customer Support.

Next, as part of our process we map out why we need their buy-in and how they’ll be involved in our Voice of the Customer program.

For example, let’s take Customer Success. We need buy-in from customer success because they usually own sending out customer surveys like NPS and CSAT, which are valuable sources of feedback.

We need to get their buy-in to share their feedback data to understand insights like why customers are leaving and what opportunities we have to deliver more value to them.

We also need customer success to commit to making changes to adoption strategies based on what we learn in the feedback process. This includes:

  • Making sure their teams are adequately trained
  • Ensuring engagement is happening over the right channels
  • Making information and help materials more accessible
  • Creating tiered service levels based on customer segments

Now let’s take Product Management. We need buy-in from product management because they usually own product feedback channels that tell us where customers struggle in-product, and what features they are asking for.

We need to get their buy-in to share their feedback data, as well as their commitment to making changes to the product roadmap based on what we learn in the voice of the customer process.

Once we have our asks, the best way to get this buy-in is by centering stakeholders around the impact that it drives for the business.

Measuring the business impact of voice of the customer/research

In order to get buy-in for customer and market feedback programs, it’s critical to center stakeholders around the impact that it drives for the business.

At its core, your voice of the customer program should drive revenue by creating more positive customers, who’re more likely to renew and increase spend with your company.

By having a systematic process in place, a Voice of the Customer program will help you capture critical insights and make these revenue-driving changes faster.

Leveraging a Voice of the Customer program to increase your percentage of positive customers, even marginally, can have a substantial effect on your overall revenue and the company’s bottom line.

This improvement to your overall revenue number gives you the return of your Voice of the Customer investment. This helps to align your stakeholders around why their time and dollar investment in the program will help them and your company to achieve its goals.

By quantifying the business impact and return on investment (ROI) that a Voice of the Customer program can drive, you can focus your stakeholders on a common mission: to drive revenue.

Building trust to bring stakeholders along

Getting buy-in for any new program can be tough. Getting buy-in for a new cross-functional program is tougher.

To get a seat at the table for a Voice of the Customer program you need to have the authority and trust of other stakeholders to drive decisions beyond your functional role.

For example, you will need to be able to serve up customer feedback insights to product management that informs them on how they should shift their product roadmap.

But what if you don’t yet have that authority or trust?

If you don’t have a seat at the table to drive decisions right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t get there. Build relationships, demonstrate results, and ask for more.

Start the conversations with your manager early to ask for the opportunity to create a trial initiative.

For example, one product marketer we work with was struggling to bring teams together around the customer. This individual was left out of conversations regarding Product Roadmap and Success strategies.

She got permission to run a test initiative. She started by gathering data to influence roadmap decisions and hosting Voice of Customer meetings to ensure alignment around the customer.

In a few months, trust was built. She’s since helped change how roadmap decisions are made. And she’s now working with other teams across the business to influence strategy.

The impact of this initiative has gained the attention of her CEO and she’s now meeting with the CEO regularly to talk about the insights she’s gathering and the biggest risks and opportunities she sees facing the business.