When you’re first starting a service-based business, you have to try lots of different things until something works. Everything is an experiment—from the content you create to the services you offer.
Eventually, you want to start making more informed decisions. As a service provider, every decision you make in your business needs to come back to the clients and customers you serve.
That’s where VOC research comes in!
VOC stands for Voice of Customer. VOC Research is when you listen to your customers to learn about their problems, desires, and hesitations. After listening, you organize and analyze that data so you can apply it to your business.
If that sounds complicated, just remember:
💡 VOC research is the act of listening to your clients and giving a damn about what they have to say.
As copywriters like to quip, “Copy isn’t written; it’s assembled” (it’s a popular paraphrase from Eugene Schwartz’s Breakthrough Advertising). The fundamental building block to assembling conversion copy is out of the mouths of your clients.
You might have heard that large corporations, particularly SaaS companies, are VOC fanatics. And for good reason: studies have shown that companies that conduct VOC research spend less on customer service, have higher employee engagement, and retain customers far better than companies that don’t.
As a service provider, though, you might not be thinking about “customer retention” or “employee engagement.” But you should still be conducting and collecting VOC research! Most service-based businesses depend on repeat clients, referrals, and word-of-mouth marketing. You have to know what your clients are thinking and feeling, especially as it relates to your offers.
Listening carefully to potential, current, and past clients helps you connect with them on a deeper level and improves every aspect of your work. Best of all, you’ll feel more confident in your decisions because you’ll know what your clients want from you.
Now that we’ve discussed what VOC research is and why it matters, you’re probably wondering about the how. Let’s dive in.
Before you get overwhelmed about implementing a complicated VOC research system, let me reassure you: you probably already have some VOC data available!
Testimonials are the primary VOC research available to service providers and coaches. But after just a few clients, it’s difficult to remember where all of your testimonials are. Here’s the system I use to organize mine inside of Notion:
Every time a client gives me feedback—whether I’ve asked for it or not!—I add it to this table. I also like to tag mine with what their words speak to, such as my process, their results, how they see me, their investment, etc. When I’m looking for customer feedback related to a specific tag, I can filter the table for that tag.
And if you need some guidance on what questions to ask, I love and recommend Kirsty Fanton’s Social Proof Sidekick (not an affiliate link, just a fantastic product!). It’s helped me ask the right questions in the right way, and I’ve gotten much more valuable social proof from clients since going through it.
VOC data isn’t just limited to your testimonials. Depending on what stage of business you’re in, you might have some other places to comb through, such as your…
Go ahead and collect anything you have from the list above and drop it into a table, too. As you read through it all, you’ll probably see some patterns emerge.
Tag liberally—you can always edit or reduce the number of tags later! I like to start with tags for “investment,” “process,” “desires,” “about the offer,” and “about [the service provider].”
Now that you have all of your current VOC research organized, it’s time to think about how you can continuously collect these insights. There are two great ways to do this: surveys and customer interviews.
It can feel intimidating to ask for feedback and survey your audience, but it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Most people are happy to answer a couple of questions, especially if you’re offering a small incentive (like a $5 gift card or a discount code) as thanks!
There are two surveys I recommend to service providers.
You’ll want to ask these questions well in advance of a launch, before you start writing any sales copy.
After paying for a digital product or booking your services, ask your clients one question on the thank you page (or in the first email you send them, if that feels more comfortable for services). You want to know why they hit the “buy” button or booked your services. This will help you understand what problem your clients are facing on a deeper level and what tipped them over into buying your product or booking your services.
Not everyone will answer the question, and not every answer will be particularly useful. But that’s okay!
“What was going on in your life or business that led you to buy X/book my services?”
The insights you gain from those questions (👆👆👆) will be so useful as you craft your sales copy. And if you hire a copywriter to work with you on your launch, make sure that this kind of research is part of their process! It’s a critical step to assembling copy that connects, empowers, and converts.
If you’ve got the time to hop on some calls (or can outsource to a conversion copywriter who bakes this sort of thing into their process), hold some voice of customer interviews with past clients. You’d be surprised at the information people will share with you, especially if you frame it as a way to listen to their feedback and improve your services! Use the same questions from the “Pre-Launch Research Survey” Qs above.
Make sure you ask permission to record the call so you can pop the audio into a transcription service like Otter.ai (affiliate link) afterward. Then copy any juicy bits into your VOC research table and tag away.
You’ve done the surveys and organized all those screenshots of your DMs, previous testimonials, and social media comments. You’ve even done some VOC interviews!
The point of all this data is to apply it to your business, of course. But figuring out what data is actually helpful and what data you should ignore can be tricky.
Some researchers suggest organizing VOC into client needs, then creating a hierarchy of those needs and prioritizing from there. That’s an effective strategy for larger companies that have hundreds of survey responses to comb through.
But for service providers wanting to implement their VOC research, I recommend going with your gut more than a complicated hierarchy of needs. You’ve worked closely with all or nearly all of the survey responders, depending on your offers. You’ll know what is valuable as you read through it all.
After running surveys and combining that data with the VOC that you already had on hand, it’s the perfect time to add a second layer of tags. I like to add “sticky” to tag responses with unique sensory and emotion-related words so that I can use those words in my copy. I also like to add tags like “results,” “future offers,” “hesitations,” and” -aware” for each of the 5 stages of awareness.
Finally, it’s time to implement all the data you’ve collected, organized, and analyzed.
Each time you go to write or talk about your offers, you can pull up your VOC research and refer to anything you’ve marked as “sticky,” “hesitations,” “results,” or “investment.”
When you’re optimizing your client experience, you can look at the feedback you received around your “process,” “about the offer,” and “about [the service provider].”
“Problems,” “desires,” and “future offers” will come in handy as you consider growing your business, pivoting, or niching down.
Using the organizational system you’ve put into place, you’re in an excellent spot to make decisions for the future of your business that are informed by your newfound understanding of your clients rather than your best guess.
VOC research isn’t a one-and-done process. It’s a big commitment! But by doing VOC research, you’ll be able to better connect with your clients and serve them as their wants, needs, problems, and desires evolve.
When it comes to communicating clearly with your audience, nothing can replace voice of customer research (or VOC, for short!). But it doesn’t have to be an intimidating process—in fact, you probably already have VOC in your business!
Swipe my Notion template to organize, categorize, and utilize your customer feedback all in one place.
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Jaimie is a research & strategy-focused launch copywriter based in Seattle, WA.