Intake is the Easy Part: CMOs Discuss Voice of the Customer Strategy

Matt Heinz

What a robust, wide-ranging discussion Friday at CMO Coffee Talk on all things Voice of the Customer – including methodologies, org structures, feedback triage and much more.

What’s especially stuck with me are the three VoC roles shared by Gina Hortatsos:

  1. Intake
  2. Synthesis
  3. Activation

The easy part is the collection – through NetPromoter Scores (NPS), customer advisory boards and more. The hard part is triaging the feedback and adjusting your product, operations, experience and more to constantly improve.

Also loved Sydney Sloan’s comment about long-term customers and eliminating “hand-offs” to new people inside your organization. A robust customer community can mitigate that friction and impact.

More great highlights and comments from the Zoom chat at both sessions below. If you are a B2B CMO or head of marketing and want to join future Friday sessions (as well as a robust Slack community), let me know!


The reality is when a customer buys they almost FREEZE you in their mind in terms of what you do….that is why we have to always be dethawing as we add stuff.

This discussion reminds me of the quote from Henry Ford: “If I only listened to customers I would have had to make a faster horse.”

We use a platform called Aha! where customers and employees can submit and vote up feature requests to collect that information.

I’ve used Aha! at a past company that worked well to upvote and we tied it into SFDC.

2 of my prior companies have used Aha, one of the big values was tying deals and $$ value to feature request PM used to help coordinate and prioritize. Really helped evaluate and steer sales asking for every different special feature.

NPS is much more useful if you know who’s answering (the exec or the user) and if you can ask even one follow up open-ended Q - e.g. what experience in the last 30 days had the biggest impact on your score?

Our product team is in love with CES scores as a better measure of if the product is working. not really a replacement for NPS but gets to one piece of it.

We've been using NPS for more specific engagements rather than overall measures. We are using for after each service e, and just rolled out for a post sales experience.

Relationship NPS AND transactional NPS for insight into specific interactions with product, support, customer success, invoicing, etc. The transactional piece yields drivers and insight into improvements needed.

I do worry about over “asking.”

We’re thinking about hiring a dedicated customer marketer but are struggling deciding if that role should sit in demand marketing, customer success or corporate marketing (customer advocacy).

I love the "customer journey" approach -- tapping into the different conversations along the journey... each part of the organization touches the customer in different ways....

As an old friend says, “a customer can’t tell you why they DIDN’T buy.”

Folks typically don’t know what to ask for. Need to get ahead of them. Like projecting next year’s fashion runway trends.

Especially if still early in company life cycle - current customers are early adopters and not necessarily representative of the market you are trying to address.

My experience across many companies that if Engineering/Product Management doesn't hear it directly *from a customer* they don't take product feedback seriously. Still trying to figure out how to crack that nut.

We created a report based on customer benchmarks that we owned as a business and then worked with Stanford University.. and used their name and ours together to get a unique trend report out to our customer base.. worked better than a Gartner pay to play report in the industry we were in.

The Sales and Marketing Strategy Institute (Seattle branch is out of the UW Foster School) partners with companies on publishable research (like the Stanford example).

We recorded our top customers for early stage “reference” calls. They are shared 1:1 and cover the questions that they consistently are asked. Then offer a 1:1 follow up if needed later in the sale cycle, so we don’t burn out on top references.

We ask our customers to be part of our beta program and give direct feedback on new features and if something is missing capture then.

Our best source for product prioritization is actually coming out of our Win/Loss and Churn/Retention interviews.

We use a Value Stream lens for our product development process - and each of those streams pulls feedback from various sources including overtly from our Customer Success team and our Win/Loss reports.

Investment themes vs. features is also better level for the Customer Advisory Board focus.

We use Customer Effort Score to prioritize improvements to our onboarding process, some were for success, many the product needed to address.

Wearing my market research hat - one of the challenges is unifying multiple datasets into something cohesive -- one way is to ensure you capture answers to similar questions across touch points - which can help bring the multiple data-sources into one.

It also helps you advocate for customer experience across all the other departments. Drives alignment and puts you in a leading / supporting role.

I love to think of the customer lifecycle as the backbone on which we layer our communication strategy. Then encourage everyone in the company, in every function, to strive to bring value to customers at every stage.

Three tenants of SaaS success:

  1. Easy to buy
  2. Easy to use
  3. Easy to love

Internal champions are the golden ticket to adoption, growth and advocacy within the account!

We called customer marketing - customer advocacy at my last company - which is the right label I think - we want to create advocates.

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