You Need a Voice of the Customer Consultant
Voice of the customer consultants can help you better understand your customers and prospects, leading to a more successful product or service.
Margo Diewald is founder and principal of Adeptation, LLC, where she does customer experience and market research consulting. Diewald earned an MBA from Duke University and blends in-house marketing experience with consulting expertise.
She works most frequently with clients in consumer electronics, software-as-a-service, financial services, and household products. Diewald describes all of these engagements as “experience offerings” because they blend products, services, and technology into a customer solution. Diewald also does a great deal of voice of the customer research, which allows clients to better understand their markets and their go-to-market strategies before they make big investment decisions.
Benefits of Market Research Consulting
The number one benefit a market research consultant provides to a client, according to Diewald, “is the ability to synthesize information from the market and from customers through different forms of research to provide actionable recommendations that help clients make decisions with confidence.”
Diewald collects and analyzes market data, but she also conducts in-depth interviews with customers (and other stakeholders) about their preferences around product features, prices, marketing approaches, and more.
The best time for a client to bring on a market research consultant, says Diewald, would be during the product and service development cycle, or when new competitors are entering and changing the dynamics of the market.
“Getting deep qualitative insights at this stage can help you avoid expensive mistakes,” she says.
It’s about finding the right fit between the client’s offering and the needs of the market. For example, Diewald sometimes helps clients understand modifications they might need to make to their product prototype before they invest in manufacturing it.
How should a client define success with a market research engagement?
“If you learn something that enabled you to make a decision with confidence or learned something that surprised you and helped you refocus what your team was working on, then the engagement was successful,” says Diewald.
The goal is to provide data, both quantitative and qualitative, to help inform client decision-making.
Why Hire a Voice of the Customer Consultant?
Diewald sums up the reason for voice of the customer research as rapidly changing market dynamics.
“Maybe you’re bringing a new product or service to market, or you’ve got some small and nimble, but well-funded startups taking away your market share or reducing your margins. Those are good moments for conducting voice of customer research,” says Diewald.
Some of the voice of customer research projects that Diewald has worked on include human-centered design interviews for a software automation product from a Fortune 50 tech company, testing sessions for a regional household goods manufacturer, and concept testing sessions for a small toy manufacturer.
What to Look for in a Voice of the Customer Consultant
Diewald suggests that clients look for 4 consultant characteristics when hiring for voice of the customer research engagements:
- Someone who asks good questions.
The key skills required for consultants doing VoC research are contextual understanding, curiosity, empathy, and the ability to synthesize information. The ability to ask good questions is absolutely essential, says Diewald. A consultant needs the ability to read the context and be flexible in how they communicate depending on who they’re talking to.
“The questions you ask will be completely different depending on whether you’re talking to frontline workers in retail or food service versus talking to corporate decision makers, franchisees, or systems integrators who are stakeholders in the decision,” she says.
- Someone who can keep things simple.
A big mistake Diewald sees clients make when they do their own voice of customer research is not adjusting the question to the person being asked. You can’t ask a customer complex questions about the user interface of a retail website or how a product is made.
“If the question is too complex, the respondent’s eyes will glaze over and they’ll just say, ‘I don’t know.’ The thing just needs work and it doesn’t, and I can’t tell you anything more than that.’”
- Someone who can blend quantitative and qualitative data. VoC research must be both quantitative (numbers) and qualitative (stories), says Diewald. “It’s important to have rigorous market research and quantifiable information, but you need to make room for anecdotes and interesting insights too.”
- Someone who makes people comfortable. Clients need to hire a consultant who quickly puts people of all types at ease, so that research participants speak candidly, share details and are responsive to probing follow-up questions, says Diewald. Sometimes customers either can’t articulate or maybe don’t know what they want in a client offering. A good VoC consultant will know how to “hear,” and delve into, what isn’t being said