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Digital Transformation Is a Must. Here's How the Voice of the Customer Should Help Drive It. Digital transformation will help your organization survive, but to get it, you need to listen.

By Jonathan Levitt

entrepreneur daily

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A retail shopper looking for a specific type of handbag. A city citizen who needs better transit options. A B2B executive who wants to help other companies complete analytics with new software.

What do all of these people have in common? They're all stakeholders — customers who want to build and use a fantastic product or service. Whatever you offer, you offer it for them, not for yourself.

Regardless of your sector, the concept of the voice of the customer (VOC) is something that everybody is familiar with. Connecting VOC and digital transformation — which connects to virtually every operation you've got — is one of the most powerful ways to put customers in long-term control of your organization for better results.

Related: Digital Transformation Strategy: The Pillars of Digital Fluidity

VOC is the foundation for your digital transformation

The golden mantra in business, government, non-profit or other sectors is that your organization has value when you meet the customer's needs or wants. It's all about solving some kind of problem they have and collectively sharing the same core values. As Simon Sinek put it, people don't buy your product or service, they buy the why behind the product or service. Or looking at it from a slightly different angle, it's the customer you market to and design for who ultimately will have to deal with the positive or negative consequences of the digital transformation you implement.

With this in mind, if I had one stream of data I could look at to drive the direction of my business and digital transformation within it, hands down it would be the voice of the customer — because unless it's an operational necessity your customers can't see, there's little point in transforming processes that stakeholders have zero interest in. You have to understand your customer's pain points and barriers to entry. Can these barriers be lifted with a digital solution? How can you reach this solution collaboratively? You have to work with your customers if you want your digital transformation to be successful.

Imagine you're in a rally car, and your course is digital transformation. Your business is in the driver's seat while your customer is your co-driver — your navigator — providing step-by-step directions of how to get to your destination. Without them, you may make the wrong turn, but with them, you'll rocket over the finish line.

Markets are unpredictable. Five, 10 or 20 years down the road, customers will want something different than they want now. So, listening to VOC is a continuous process, not a one-shot or one-study approach. Consistently listening to your customer teaches you to prioritize your most important stakeholders' needs — which are constantly changing. What will work for a digital transformation now will likely not work in 10 years. Getting to know your VOC well sets your organization up to always be evolving and improving with your customer. It's this ability to consistently turn feedback into insights and then into action that moves the needle for a business.

Related: Digital Transformation: How to Make Your Way Through the Cloud

Getting customer feedback

If VOC needs to drive your digital transformation, the next logical question is how to get the customer's feedback. You've got plenty of options, like surveys, focus groups, panels and emails. Which one you use depends on your goals and resources.

Your best results happen with a combination of qualitative and quantitative data. Many common metrics, such as net promoter score (NPS), don't do much to tell you how to take action where you're not scoring well. Additionally, go omnichannel — the customer experience isn't a single point.

Suppose a customer came into your store. They walk up and down the aisles for 60 minutes and buy three items. You could look at pure numbers and say that visit was a success because the customer made a purchase. But what the numbers don't say is that 55 minutes of those 60 minutes were spent in frustration, and the person had come to the store looking to buy 30 items, not three. The only way you'd know how to improve their experience would be to ask them for their perspective and then take that feedback and use it to better their experience next time.

Remember to talk to the people who didn't buy, too. The conversion rate in physical retail is only 20-40%. On a website, it's down to 2.5-3%. So, if you don't get feedback from the people who haven't converted, you're ignoring most of your potential market.

No matter how you collect your feedback when you talk about VOC, you also have to talk about the employee's voice. Your team members are on the front lines and in the best position to understand what your customers want and need.

Related: How Leaders Should Use Consumer Insights to Guide Decision-Making and Improve Customer Experience

Closing the loop

VOC doesn't just tie into one neat part of digital transformation. It's the force behind so much of it that you need a process to help undertake digital transformation guided by your stakeholders. When you listen to customers and evolve with them over time, you build a foundation for the future and a loyal base. Your stakeholders will stay with you if they know you are using their feedback to meet their needs.

As you sift through the data your stakeholders have provided, you may find that your customers would benefit from updating your website, creating a more user-friendly app or introducing new technology like self-checkouts or item look-ups in your brick-and-mortar store. Their feedback will ultimately guide your digital transformation.

Whether you're a small retailer looking to venture into ecommerce for the first time, a mature organization that needs to modernize outdated processes or even a government agency that wishes to provide more accessible services, tapping VOC protects you from operating in a silo and making unwanted, ineffective offers. Organizations that will survive have to be listening brands that are genuinely customer-centric. The sooner you commit to an ongoing, omnichannel feedback process, the sooner you'll be ready to walk alongside your customers to produce long-term, competitive digital change.

Jonathan Levitt

Vice President, Growth of Cocoflo

Jonathan Levitt has spent over 25 years helping a diverse list of brands understand their audience and leverage technology and data to build better product and stakeholder experiences.

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