Voice of customer programmes serve as touchpoint for publisher processes

By Phil Schroder


McLean, Virginia, USA


I went to the doctor last week for my annual physical. Most of you are familiar with this process: The doctor or nurse takes your blood pressure, checks your pulse, does a physical exam, and orders bloodwork. They then evaluate all of this information together to determine how you are doing physically and suggest treatment options if anything is amiss.

If we do this routine care for ourselves, then why do most of us ignore this same process when it comes to our businesses? There is really nothing more important than stopping occasionally to do this routine check-up and also put some processes in place to check-in on these processes each and every day.

Publishing companies need to implement strategies that actively check in with readers for their insights and feedback.
Publishing companies need to implement strategies that actively check in with readers for their insights and feedback.

One of the best ways to address this is to put a really strong voice of customer (VoC) programme in place. This is best served by making it a cross-functional effort that engages all areas of the business in both research and feedback.

It can be easy to say that we listen to our customers. However, the key is to be sure we pay attention to what they say and use that to build our business.

A good programme is comprised of several tactics that I’ve noted below. This is not an all-encompassing list by any means, but some good building blocks to get started.

Social listening and reputation management

One key part of a modern VoC programme is social listening. We often push messages out to our customers through social channels but fail to listen to what they say back. They can do this through comments, mentions of our brand, and even direct messages. Another area we get feedback is through review sites such as Yelp, Google, and even Facebook.

It can be very complicated to measure social listening when we have 10 to 15 social media profiles — and some businesses can easily have 1,000 or more profiles. The good news is there are a lot of great partners out there that help measure these mentions and reviews. It can be tough to figure out which one to use; this source reviews 25 of these tools.

It may also be difficult to find one solution to listen to social media and track reviews, so it is best to determine what is most important to your brand as you get started.

Text and speech analysis

Many brands also receive hundreds to thousands of calls a day as well as e-mails and even chat messages. We can meet with reps and look at call stats, but it can be tough to identify trends and act on those without a solution to look at every message coming in.

Technology can now help brands measure all of this in a very smart way. With the right solution, this measurement is a seamless experience. Many interactive voice response (IVR) and call center software solutions already include this capability as a part of their offerings or as an upsell. However, if they do not, with cloud services, this can still be a fairly affordable part of a VoC programme. The key is making sure you actually utilise these findings to make your brand better.


Surveys are another great piece of a good VoC programme. Regular customer satisfaction score surveys (CSAT) should be a part of your business model to identify what is going right and what may be not quite up to par. Publishers can also incorporate these at regular intervals as part of new subscriber onboarding or when changes are made to the content or the product.

One of the best ways to determine what readers need and want is to ask them.
One of the best ways to determine what readers need and want is to ask them.

The good news about surveys is that they can be as complicated or simple as you want to make them. There are great partners offering everything from a turnkey solution and help formulate questions to those offering a form approach that is very self-service. This source can help you find the right tool that works best for you. Again, the key is to look at the results collectively and make decisions based on them.

Here at Gannett, surveys work to drive decisions once we understand what consumers want. We learned logging in is a large pain point for subscribers, so we developed a magic link e-mail users can ask for on the log-in page. This provides them with a link that logs users automatically into our sites.

Also, like many publishers, Gannett produces an e-edition, or a digital replica of our print editions daily. We learned through a survey that the term “e-edition” was confusing to some users but “e-newspaper” was much clearer. Because of that, we have worked to rebrand this digital replica across all of our local markets.

These are just a few areas that can be a part of a great VoC programme. Just as it is important for our body to get that annual physical, these tools help us get that same check-up for our brands. A good VoC programme is not just an option publishers should pursue but a necessity in today’s business environment.

About Phil Schroder

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