What are common mistakes that you see product marketing teams make when starting a VoC program in their company?
I think the biggest mistakes with starting a formal VOC program are 1) to do it without truly knowing what the goal is, and 2) to not secure CEO-level buy-in. If you don’t do the first one, then how will you know where to focus or how to measure the impact? And second, if you don’t get that commitment from the CEO, then you risk turning it into a temporary pet project that ends as soon as the exec sponsor departs the organization. I’ve seen it happen first-hand.
The two biggest mistakes I see are (1) not having a clear goal as to what you want to learn from customers and how this will inform product / go-to-market strategy, and (2) not truly prioritizing or resourcing the effort.
With regard to (1), I find it's really important to be clear about what you are trying to learn from Voice of Customer. Don't get me wrong, it's important to have broad discussions with customers that raise topics you may not have thought... however, I suggest gathering these type of insights should be 20% of the effort not the 80%. I recommend guiding the feedback you get toward problems you know you need to solve - whether that is design, messaging, customer education, or something else. Create discussion guides, surveys, or other structures that will get you there.
And then (2), getting insights from customers takes a lot of time! It's easy for this work to get deprioritized when compared to go-to-market needs. I recommend either making voice of customer a formal part of people's goals or making it some people's full time job. At Facebook / Meta, we made sure that everyone on the PMM team had insights projects as a part of the goals. We also had a team with a primary responsibility for managing many of our voice of customer (as we called it hyperloop) processes. You may need to start small with your efforts until you can justify more time / resoucing... but if you don't prioritize it, it won't get done.
I think the easiest thing to miss when setting up Voice of Customer programs is alignment cross-functionally on the purpose of these programs. As product marketers, it’s easy to drive towards your goal of turning your customers into heroes and heroines via case studies and testimonials for your site. However, a strong VoC program needs to do more than just build a pipeline of case studies. You need to be able to infuse the customer voice back through all facets of the organization.
So I think the best way to avoid common mistakes when building one from scratch is to:
- Align with sales, product, customer success, even engineering, finance, and other functions you might not immediate think of to see what their objectives might be in hearing from the customer
- Start small, perhaps with a quarterly meeting with 10 of your top customers, or a survey a quarter the results of which are analyzed and shared out and might form the basis of your NPS
- Document customer requests and follow up with them even if it’s a simple email to send an email with a documentation link…they’re giving you their time, respect that
- Give these customers a sneak peak of what’s upcoming…don’t just use these forums as a way to collect ideas or hear their list of issues/bugs, but also give them a sneak peak on some of the cool stuff they can expect in the next quarter or two and make product a partner in this…some of the best and most exciting customer interactions we’ve had in previous advisory/VoC programs has been thru the roadmap previews
- As you have more success, you can expand this program to various parts of the funnel to help inform product marketing work…is there a prospect stuck in a stage for 2 or 3x longer than average? Send a survey, find out why, expand to voice of the prospect/market as well.
One of the most impactful things you can help the organization do is get into the shoes of your customer. If it works for your product, consider doing what companies like DoorDash recently announced, and drive cultural change within the organization by making people actually become a customer for their products even if it’s only a day a month/quarter/year.
The most common mistake I've seen in developing VoC programs is thinking too narrowly about the customers' voice. Often, VoC programs start with marketing or customer success with the goal of obtaining advocates for case studies, reviews and references. Advocates can be leveraged for so much more; for example:
- Participants in UX research
- Beta participants
- Participating in persona interviews or providing feedback on messaging
In addition to obtaining case studies and references, VoC programs can be used to help product marketing and product teams understand:
- your product's ideal customer profile by understanding pain points and purchase triggers and correlating this to ARR
- what common phrases your customers use when describing their problem, and what they find useful about your solution. You can then compare these terms with what is on your website to adjust messaging for features and pain points your customers feel are most important.
- frustrations with your current offering by analyzing support cases, product reviews and NPS feedback
In developing your program, I encourage you to think about every function in your organization that could benefit from hearing the voice of the customer, and what impact they could make with that data.
Not getting enough feedback from stakeholders on missing value.
VoC programs are amazing when implemented well, but if they are created in a silo or without solving a problem then it will not get the internal traction it deserves.
For example - are you marketing, sales, or product teams HUNGRY for more customer input? Where? Why? Dig into what pain it would solve if they had more insight.
Then, deliver that value first when building out your VoC program.
If your stakeholders say something like "oh yeah that would be cool, we could probably leverage that" - then stop and reassess. VoC need to provide value fast in order to be established internally.
I have been a Product Marketer since 2013 and have built numerous VoC programs back when I worked at Medallia.
For one, generally speaking, PMMs don't always own the VoC program.
That being said, there are some common mistakes some companies make with VoC programs:
1. Score Watching: They only look at the NPS score and don't take any action. 8/10 companies will do this. The NPS or equivalent north star metric is only useful if the action is taken on the qualitative feedback and improvements made accordingly.
2. Surface Level Only: They don't measure key drivers of satisfaction in the customer journey. It is important to measure every step of the customer journey.
3. Reduced Transparency: For the VoC program to change behaviors, the insights have to funneled down to the front lines so that they can take action and improve.
4. Forgetting the Non-Responders: The non-responder accounts in a VoC program are the highest risk for churn. They need to be reached out to in a more proactive fashion to truly get their feedback.
5. Not Set To A Cadence: A well designed VoC program should have a mix of transactional surveys on specific points in time of the customers' journey and a set-to-a-cadence relationship survey.