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Convincing company leadership to listen to the voice of the customer

two people listening to a voice
Illustration by Sarah Kula Marketing Designer

At Think Company, we’ve heard from both clients and prospects that it can be a struggle to convince executive leadership to invest time and money in “voice of the customer” research to improve their businesses. From CEOs to product owners, many leaders have an intimate knowledge of their products and industry. However, they use this deep knowledge to define customer needs, often with little to no investment in customer research—making assumptions about their customers’ actual experiences.

Even doing customer research once isn’t enough. The way customers use a tool, product, or service—and their expectations of that experience—change over time. By failing to prioritize consumer research and validating your knowledge on an ongoing basis, your products are built on assumptions rather than facts. And products built based on assumption or gut feelings can sometimes work, but they’re usually darts shot in the dark. These products can be clunky and calcify quickly—instead of being dynamic and deeply relevant. 

So how can you convince your leadership team about the need for ongoing customer insights? And how can you start utilizing that information to drive meaningful results? 

There’s a saying that “research breaks ties.” Using customer research data to inform a product strategy makes for efficient decision-making and drives long-term, sustainable growth. What leadership team doesn’t want that?

Here are three of the tactics we’ve seen succeed when convincing company leadership to listen to the voice of the customer. If you’re making a case for more customer research, these ideas can be a great place to start.

Ask: “Do we know what we don’t know?”

You may have already come up against this roadblock, but many leaders and product owners already believe they know their customers. This is often based on a single customer interaction from the past or information that is no longer relevant. These beliefs can be in opposition on the same product team, leading to difficulties in decision-making and prioritization.

By illustrating how much data is out there—and how much your company is missing—you can start to highlight the possibilities your business can take advantage of. But you have to highlight the lack of information first, showcasing that there are things they don’t know and that gaining that knowledge can positively impact business decisions.

When we work with clients on this, we break down the information into three categories:

  1. Known knowns: Things we’re confident we know
  2. Known unknowns: Things we know and have questions about
  3. Unknown unknowns: Information gaps we think we might have and want to be on the lookout for

You may want to use this structure—or one like it—to illustrate your team’s lack of actionable customer data and how much could be done with that information.

Inspire: Conquer the mountain range—not just a single peak

Once you’ve started highlighting the possibilities of listening to your customer, the next step is to illustrate what’s possible with that feedback: Flexible, dynamic products that evolve with your customer and industry. 

Products built this way not only have a greater possibility of succeeding in their niche, but these insights can help you understand—and get ahead of—evolving trends in your industry. This is about more than just avoiding a plateau. Listening to your customers and utilizing the information they provide can create opportunities to expand your business in ways your leadership team may never have considered. Many leaders are concerned about how to future-proof their businesses, and this can help address that.

Show: Measuring your success

This ties into the first question we raised, but how do you measure your success if your company doesn’t have customer research? And what can that success look like with more data?

Measuring success requires a baseline understanding of your product or service’s current state. Along with measurements such as conversion, sales, and adoption, there’s also usability, accessibility, and satisfaction. Repetitive research as part of a voice of the customer program can offer a way to measure success over time. 

Something to remember: Yes, you may want to launch a full-scale, comprehensive customer listening program. But listening to the voice of the customer can be a scalable process. You can use the data you already have—user analytics—more strategically with existing analytics. 

Throughout the pandemic, one of our clients noticed that website usage dramatically shifted from desktop to mobile. With limited in-person interactions, their customers became more nimble—wanting mobile-first access to the website. The client shifted their product backlog to prioritize maximizing the usability of their mobile navigation over other site improvements. They didn’t need a robust voice of the customer program—they used the data they were already collecting daily to make a user-centric product decision that was deeply relevant.

Driving growth with customer insights

Listening to the voice of the customer has many advantages:

  • It alleviates ambiguity and helps guide product decisions and prioritization
  • You create more flexible, dynamic products that evolve with your users
  • Strategic choices become easier to make, and it opens business possibilities beyond your niche

If you’re trying to convince your company’s leadership about the importance of listening to the voice of the customer, you’re not alone. But you have a strong case for gathering more information and using it well. Listening to customers just makes good business sense. 

Using the tactics and strategies listed above, you can help your company leadership see the value in listening to customers and help your business grow. 


Are you starting a design and development project? Make sure you’ve got relevant research that supports your customers’ needs—chat with our experts today!

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