Implementing a Powerful Voice of Customer Program to Boost Advocacy

Are you developing and capturing the voice of your customers for customer advocacy?
More than 75% of B2B buyers consult three or more sources of advocacy before making a purchase decision, according to Gartner.

Existing and potential customers don’t want to hear what you have to say about your product or service. They want to hear what your customers have to say about it, how they are using it, and how they are benefiting from it.

Dana Alvarenga, Vice President of Customer Experience at SlapFive, explained how to establish a voice of customer program that’s all about the customer in her KAMCon 2023 presentation, “Implementing a Powerful VOC Program.” This program enables you to easily identify advocates, capture their “voice,” and leverage it to develop more customer advocates while delivering benefits to them at the same time. So, it’s a win-win that boosts customer loyalty while helping customers achieve their desired outcomes.

She calls this sort of program an “ongoing customer voice program.” What used to consist of random acts of advocacy, according to Dana, now involves “a two-way exchange of value, where your customers are getting value out of what you’re offering them and the program you deliver to them.”

Dana’s definition of “an ongoing customer voice program is when you engage with your customers in that two-way exchange of value, where your customers expect to be periodically asked to share their insights, share their advice, share their knowledge, and do so enthusiastically. You’re not begging for favors.”

This program enables you to track these customer engagement activities to help drive and promote acts of advocacy while providing insights on your most and least engaged customers. Then you’ll be able to track the program’s impact on sales, renewals, and expansions.

VOC and Advocacy – The Old Way vs. The New Way

Before we look at how to implement this powerful VoC program, let’s consider the old way of approaching customer advocacy versus the new way. It used to be commonplace to bribe customers by giving them a gift card, prize, or t-shirt upfront to entice them to be a reference or a case study subject. Technically that’s begging customers for a favor.

The new way to approach advocacy in the ongoing customer voice program is to ask your customers what activities they want to participate in. Then when you have a need, you already know who wants to be a reference or a case study subject, and there’s no begging or scrambling around to find one.

The new approach gives you a more authentic customer voice by involving ready and willing participants. Plus, you leverage the actual customer’s voice through audio, video, or text provided by the customer. No more producing flashy videos or drone shots of the customer’s headquarters.

“What people want to know is what Mr. Smith is doing with your product,” Dana said, “Everyone’s remote so the customer can be in their kitchen. That’s authentic. People want to see what your customer is doing, how their life is better now that they’re using your product.”

Implement an Ongoing Customer Voice Program in Four Steps

Now that we understand the difference between the old way of approaching VoC and Advocacy, let’s walk through the four steps you need to take to implement an ongoing customer voice program in your organization.

Step 1. Planning

“A customer voice program doesn’t need to be owned by Marketing, Account Management, or Customer Success,” according to Dana, “It’s a whole organizational mindset.” However, there can be one key person with an organization that’s overseeing the administration of this program. It may be a volunteer until this becomes an established role within your company.

Create a list: Gather historical data showing which customers have already done advocacy activities for your organization. They may have spoken on a webinar or at an event, been a case study subject, done a reference call, or joined your Customer Advisory Board.

Identify a central location for your list that is visible and accessible to everyone in your organization, like your CRM or Key Account Management solution. This makes it easy for everyone across the company to know who’s enrolled and what activities each participant is interested in. Then, once you start to roll this out, track what activities people have done.

Assemble an internal council: This council exists to support the program and should include members from departments across your organization such as Account Management, Customer Success, Sales, Customer Service, Marketing, and Product. Involving other teams up front helps with the long-term success of this customer voice program by boosting internal advocacy and support for it.

Get everyone on your council to nominate customers they think would be great candidates for this program. This helps you create a funnel of potential participants to approach when you launch the program.

Research: Do market and industry research and talk to your customers. Find out which activities they’d like to be involved in. For example, would they like to do virtual or in-person meetups, be a part of a referral program, or build and cultivate peer-to-peer networking?

Determine what’s in it for the customer. This program isn’t about you, it’s about your customer.

So, what’s in it for them? What are they getting out of it? These might include:

  • Showcasing innovative things that they’re doing.
  • Networking with other customers to learn about their successes and initiatives through virtual or in-person meetups.
  • Accessing a Slack community where they can network and exchange ideas with their peers.
  • Becoming design partners and gaining insights or access to the product through sessions where you listen to their feedback and share it with the Product team to leverage. Then highlighting the customer as a new feature is implemented that was inspired by the input, for example.
  • Participating in a Customer Advisory Board

Build excitement: Announce the program with a press release or a blog. Have some fun fanfare around the launch internally and externally to build some excitement around the launch.

Step 2. Executing the Plan

Now that you’ve created the structure and the plan, it’s time to roll it out. You’ve created a list of existing customer advocates and a pipeline of candidates nominated within your organization.
Create a customer signup form: Use a form in HubSpot, Smartsheets, or Google Forms, for example. Make it easy to sign up by including check boxes for the activities available to candidates and ask them to select the ones they are interested in. Initially, his form should be sent to your list. Then send it to customers as you welcome them to your organization during onboarding or implementation.

Document: As customers sign up for the program, capture their information in the same database where your list is documented.

Send a welcome email: After clients sign up for the program, send them an email welcoming them to the program and telling them what they can expect to get out of it. Make sure this communication and the program are customer-focused.

Rinse and repeat: Add new participants to the program as new leadership and users are hired by customers. Invite them to join during your onboarding process to ensure everybody knows that it’s ongoing.

Collaborate with Marketing: Leverage Marketing events like webinars, events, and onsite visits that are already planned to coordinate in-person meetups and otherwise engage program participants.

Capture your customer’s voice: Record customer calls, videos, events, webinars, success stories, and emails where they talk about their use and success with your product or service. Then take full advantage of these endorsements on social networks and in other content in addition to during peer-to-peer events. And share customer requests and input internally to improve your offering and service.

Enable and empower your Sales and Account Management teams: They can use this customer voice program as a sales differentiator. Your organization may be the only company in your industry or market offering a program of this type and customers love it.

Step 3. Ongoing Management

If you build it, they will come. This is not true. Make sure that the program is managed and reviewed routinely. Go back and check on it. This is not a set-it-and-forget-it initiative where the customer gets the form, they signed up for activities and someone else will ask them when it needs to happen.

You must make sure it has ongoing management and adjust it as needed. If the program isn’t working, change the name, change the frequency, or change the activities, for example.
Then review it with your customers periodically as part of a quarterly business review (QBR) for example. Confirm that they are still interested in the activities they signed up for and if they would like to add any other acts of advocacy to the list.

Reconfirming membership in the program may mean having to reengage with a customer. If you’ve asked them for something they expressed an interest in, like acting as a reference and repeatedly failed to participate, you may need to pause their program enrollment. This could also apply to customers with a low health score or at risk of churning until the situation is rectified.

Step 4. Measuring the Impact

It should take you about 30 to 60 days to roll out this plan. Assess the success of the initiative about 30 days after your program launch and adjust as needed.

Each quarter you should track the engagement back to what each participating member is doing and their industry. Identify where the gaps are in activities and members that are involved.
Knowing your program numbers helps you track your health scores, forecast renewals, and avoid burning out customers by repeatedly asking the same ones for advocacy.

Other program-related numbers to know include:

  • How many advocates or customer champions that you have.
  • How many companies have one advocate versus multiple. Track this month over month, year over year, and quarter over quarter.
  • Total engagements by customer, industry, product, and competitor that was replaced.
  • The number of closed sales influenced by a reference or customer case study.
  • Impact on ARR.
  • The number of renewals that occurred where an advocate was part of the company versus one without.
  • The frequency where customer voice overcame objections to win a deal.

Track and share these numbers to quantify the success of your program internally and with leadership.

Implement Your Powerful VOC Program

Your voice of customer program can be a win-win when you implement an ongoing customer voice program like Dana’s. You gain valuable insights and develop advocates while the customer reaps rewards and achieves their desired outcomes from using your product or service.

Follow the four-step implementation process and adjust your program to suit the needs of both your organization and your customer. And remember to remain focused on your customers to ensure your program is a success.

Looking for additional ways to build advocacy and improve your VOC program? Register for KAMGenius PLUS. Our next cohort starts on October 12th.

Senior Engagement Manager at Kapta
Jennifer is a Senior Engagement Manager at Kapta