Humans are attuned to hearing other people’s voices. Or rather, we have a tendency to hear and zero in on those things that pique our interest. A unique, high-pitched voice squeaking about an experience with a company’s product catches our attention only if it’s in a language we can understand and only if it’s a product we care about. If we speak English and the voice is German (well, we think it’s German because obviously, if we can’t speak it, we’re guessing which language it is, right?) we tune the person out and relegate it to background noise. If it’s not a product we care about, again, the conversation becomes background noise and we turn our attention to something else.
This is only natural. We all have limited bandwidth of time and energy. If voices don’t somehow resonate with us, we turn our attention to those that are interesting or useful to what we are trying to accomplish.
But, businesses cannot afford to be deaf to any unique voices…
To make sure your company is effective at hearing the Voice Of the Customer (VOC), answer these simple questions with brutal honesty:
What language is your customer speaking?
Is the company fluent in this language?
Language here means more than just the same spoken words using the same alphabet and grammatical rules. (Actually, really meaningful VOC can be obtained even when there is a disparity between the languages spoken.) Language here means the deeper foundational dispositions of the customer. It’s more than words. It’s about actions, motivations and emotions. It’s about getting past the customer’s vocal cords and getting into their hearts and heads.
Customers can only be understood when there is empathy with them.
Unfortunately, many VOC projects start all too easily with the premise that there is a common language between the company and the customer – it’s English (or French, German, Ukrainian, etc.), the language that the focus groups and questionnaires are done in. Projects starting in this manner often end up with the VOC output sounding vaguely familiar. Unfortunately, few will ask if the reason something sounds familiar is because it is an echo of the study sponsor’s voice.
Meaningful innovations seldom come from these types of VOC studies. They instead come from those studies that truly understand the deeper language of the customer. Products coming from these types of VOC studies, ultimately leave customers speechless with delight.
That silence is the most powerful, vocal endorsement of all.