Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

As a wannabe astronaut since I was about 5 years old, I’m a big fan of SpaceX.  It’s super cool to see the progress that has been made just in the last decade when a new, energetic startup truly pushes the capabilities of spaceflight.  When I read over discussions about their progress toward manned spaceflight, though, I’m reminded that government agencies (and the organizations that work with them like SpaceX) love acronyms.  For someone not deeply embedded in the industry, it’s easy to become lost in discussions about the F9 launch from LC-39A that was NET May 27th and would launch astronauts to the ISS, which is in LEO, and the booster that would come back and land on the ASDS named OCISLY.

Thankfully, the world of marketing and market research isn’t near that full of jargon.  However, we do have our own blind spots to terminology that is obvious to those of us who work in the industry but may be completely unknown to those who don’t.  For the next month or two, therefore, we’ll be focusing on some of these industry terms and trying to explain what they really mean for our clients.

To start out this discussion, let’s chat about VOC research.  At its core, the concept is simple.  VOC research is intended to bring the “voice of the customer” to the table when leaders are discussing and debating strategies.  The idea is that customers are at the core of nearly any organization’s strategy, so it is vital to make sure that you are constantly listening to what they have to say and considering how you can better meet their needs. 

In practice, VOC research can take a wide variety of forms.  If you’ve never done any sort of customer listening before, you can start by just having some informal conversations with your customers.  Even if you just call up some of your best customers and ask them their opinions about some of the strategies you are considering, getting an outside perspective can reveal vital insights that you might not have considered. 

Like most research programs, there is a huge spectrum of options for VOC research, ranging from informal discussions to large, multi-faceted research programs.  Once you’ve had informal discussions with some of your customers, you might want to consider a more robust set of qualitative research with a wide variety of customers.  You might want to do some social media listening to learn about what people are saying about your brand.  You could consider some hands-on trials of your product or service with a discussion with customers afterward about their feedback.  When you’re ready to quantify customers’ perceptions, you could conduct representative surveys of customers (or potential customers).  Once you’re ready to track your performance, you could implement ongoing tracking of customer satisfaction.  And if you’re really ready to take it to the next level, you could create dashboards for leaders to be able to see the key results of all of these efforts in one, concise location.

No matter where you start, the biggest hurdle is just to start somewhere.  Integrating the voice of the customer into your strategic discussions is critical to moving from strategies focused on your internal perceptions to strategies based on what will actually move the needle with your customers.