Voice of the Customer: Identifying Customer Needs in the Wired World

Voice of the customer (VOC) analysis is a field of study that goes back many years. Since at its core it is about identifying and adapting to customer needs, modern social media has offered an exponential growth in sources for such analysis. In fact it could be argued that we have a non-stop, 24-hour, churning sea of self-sustaining, customer-furnished attitudes and opinions.

This paper from the MIT Sloan School of Management contains a very good discussion about VOC as it relates to customer needs. Ultimately customer needs can’t be defined by the marketer: they must be in the customer’s own words and express the expected benefit to be fulfilled by the product. They must be detailed but still largely subjective: the user ultimately has a “lens” through which they perceive the world and the marketer must adapt to the preferences created through that lens.

Of course, identifying those needs through that lens is something that has never been easier. Although customer surveys and other more traditional methods still exist, customers essentially report their needs on a near constant basis just by virtue of participating in social networks. To give an example of the value of that participation, Facebook has provided the “FBME” app which estimates the value of a user’s data. The value varies greatly from person to person, but one example mentioned here is a 26 year-old single male with a B.A. living in San Francisco whose data value is estimated at $394 to Facebook. A full articulation of customer need is considered to number 100-200 words in length. Given that the average Facebook user creates 90 pieces of content each month, those posts will eventually lead to an articulation of the user’s product needs. Moreover, the entire network of the user’s “likes” and associations is available to further identify the “lens” through which the customer’s needs are viewed.

This is just a brief sample of what new media means for marketing. Contact us to learn more about the changing face of customer relationships and engagement.