We talk a lot about “the voice of the customer” (VOC) but most of us have no idea what it sounds like. The VOC is supposed to be a method of capturing customers’ expectations, preferences and aversions. While many companies go through this exercise at the start of a new product or service design, to better understand the customer’s wants and needs, I wonder how many ever revisit it to see if things are still as they were initially. How have new competitors, new technologies, new innovations, new ways of addressing the problem affected how customers see us and our solutions? How can we capture that information?
One of the best ways to gather this data and bridge the knowledge gap is through win-loss analyses. While it’s tempting to assume that the normal reasons given for not closing a deal (the competition dropped the price, some features were missing, the cost of switching was too high) or for landing a big account (I outsold the competition, our product is the best, we cut a better deal) have their place, but there is a wealth of information still waiting to be uncovered.
Win-loss studies are frequently left to the sales team, but experience shows that buyers and prospects are not comfortable revealing their true feelings to sales. Nor should the product team be in charge of win-loss studies, since their focus in heavily on features and functionality, and that’s where the conversations generally go. In our experience, it’s best to have an independent third party conduct win-loss analyses. Customers and prospects will often open up to an unbiased researcher and disclose valuable information the company would otherwise never hear. A third party can conduct local win-loss studies to tease out not only the product- and sales-related issues, but other key information such as the customer’s preferred method and frequency of communication, as well as how your brand promise is resonating – or not – with the target audience.
With proper planning, a third party can conduct meaningful and insightful conversations, and really hear the voice of the customer. This invaluable information can, in turn, influence the product development process, inform marketing campaigns and serve as additional tools for the sales teams.
About the Author
Tanya Candia is the author of several engineering and marketing books, including the five-book series “Starting Your Startup” published by IEEE. She has held senior executive positions in technology companies, and works with organizations around to world to develop and implement winning strategies.
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