Voice of Customer (VoC) Research for Manufacturers

February 14, 2017

What is VoC?

Voice of customer (VoC) is the process of better understanding needs and wants of customers. It can be both qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative is typically the first step before any kind of measurement data is collected through quantitative research. VoC research is critical in the manufacturing industry because much like many industries, understanding the needs of customers drives both product-level and service-level improvements within your company.

 

 

Drive Research is a manufacturing voice of customer (VoC) market research firm.

 

 

Does it Make Sense to Use a Third-Party Consultant for your VoC?

It is highly recommended you work with a third-party market research consultant on your VoC. You are more apt to get honest and reliable feedback. In a manufacturing setting, usually the sales team has strong relationships with distributors and end-users built over years and even decades.

 

When it comes to asking about customer satisfaction, they may not be willing to be 100% honest if they are unhappy or unsatisfied with a specific aspect of their service or products. Using a third-party helps add another layer of confidentiality so customers can freely voice concerns.

 

The analogy I like to use here is if your friend has a dirty and messy roommate, they'll often tell everyone about his or her bad habits (friends, family, even strangers) before they would tell the roommate themselves. It's human nature to be more willing to express feedback to someone not directly involved. This is why a third-party research firm is always suggested as part of your VoC.

 

 

How Does the VoC Process Work with Manufacturers?

The first step is to ensure your objectives and scope of work are laid out correctly for the VoC. Setting up goals and expectations correctly is the key to good market research. The process will be laid out by a market research firm in a proposal or scope of work. This proposal will include an overview of tasks, a timeline, and responsible parties.

 

Once you decide on a VoC market research company you will then be guided through a 4-stage process. This starts with a market research kickoff meeting. The kickoff meeting confirms objectives and lays out next steps of the project. It allows you as the manufacturer to lay all of your needs and expectations on the table for the market research firm.

 

The next step is setup and research design. This phase involves using feedback from the kickoff meeting to create an interview guide or survey script. The market research consultant creates an instrument which includes a question-by-question breakdown of flow for the methodology. This is passed to the manufacturer before fieldwork goes live. Several iterations of a draft survey and interview guide are often needed before it is considered final.

 

 

The process goes from kickoff, to set up and design, to fieldwork to reporting.

 

 

 

The 3rd step in the 4-step process is fieldwork. Fieldwork is when and how the data is collected. This can be completed through phone interviews, email surveys, or online surveys to name a few. The market research firm monitors the data as it comes in and ensure it meets quality standards.

 

The final step of the process is the analysis and reporting. A good market research firm will go beyond the numbers for you. The VoC market research company will interpret results and suggest action items and strategy based on the data collected. Be leery of the VoC firms who leave you with Excel tables of data forcing you to understand next steps on your own.

 

 

What are Some Examples of VoC Studies for Manufacturers?

The opportunities for VoC are endless when it comes to manufacturing. Many sales models involve both distributors and end-users. Obtaining feedback from both is critical. Finding and obtaining feedback from difficult to reach end-users is an area Drive Research specializes in. Since demand is driven from end-users this is a critical audience to receive data from. Working with a VoC manufacturing firm who can explore ways to gather this data is crucial.

 

Here are 3 examples of VoC market research options for manufacturers:

 

 

Customer Survey

The most basic form of VoC for manufacturers is a customer survey. In addition to obtaining customer satisfaction (CSAT) metrics and net promoter score (NPS) you'll also want to explore other areas of the customer relationship. This includes satisfaction with specific levels of the customer experience (CX) such as delivery times, product quality, customer service, etc. A manufacturer will also want to explore factors which impact choice of product, unmet customer needs from products, and evaluate customer satisfaction when compared to closest competitors.

 

 

New Product Development Interviews

Although customer satisfaction VoC may be the most popular, new product innovation research may prove the most valuable. Typically qualitative research interviews are used to explore new product concepts and needs of end-users of products. Phone interviews last between 20 and 30 minutes so they can fully explore topics. The interviews fully vet out potential barriers and the viability of new product development at your manufacturing company.

 

Here are some examples of how VoC can be used to drive product innovation.

 

 

E-Commerce or Website User Experience Research

With many manufacturers now selling direct to end-users in addition to distributors, online e-commerce has grown in popularity. This has resulted in more traffic to your site. Are you reviewing your analytics and noticed visitors dropping out at specific pages or noticing conversion rates are not as strong as they should be?

 

User experience (UX) research can assist. UX research takes a look at your website from a user's perspective and identifies tactical and practical improvements. It also integrates screen share technology to moderate an interview while the user is on the site. The user thinks aloud while browsing, and it provides the researcher the opportunity to dig deeper.

 

Drive Research is a market research in Syracuse, NY. Our company specializes in many forms of qualitative and quantitative market research including customer experience (CX), voice of customer (VoC) and user experience (UX) market research.