Do you know the difference between successful and unsuccessful businesses?The successful ones use a Voice of the Customer (VoC) analytics program to understand their customers.

They pay close attention to what their customers are saying. They know that business metrics like revenue and churn tell only part of the story. In order to understand why customers make certain decisions, they know it's critical to understand the customer's perspective.

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If you want to improve the bottom line and get more repeat business, then you have to listen to your customers.

Customer-perceived value is correlated to higher retention and more sales. That's why it’s important to know:

  • Why your customers need you.
  • What you can do to help your customers.
  • What your customers are looking for.
  • What their interests and behavioral patterns are.

You can find all of this out by creating a strong Voice of the Customer (also called VoC or Voice of Customer) program.

First, let’s go over the basics. What is Voice of the Customer?

Businesses study VoC to visualize the gap between customer expectations and their actual experiences.

Voice of Customer is imperative for business functions like customer success, operations, and product development. These groups use this research to identify and improve all stages of the customer's journey by working together to enhance their products and services.

By implementing a Voice of the Customer program, companies not only develop a closer bond with their customers but also improve their internal collaboration.

Most importantly, businesses use VoC to increase customer retention and create an army of customer advocates.

To create a VoC strategy, you’ll need:

  • An objective and overarching question, e.g., Why have customer retention rates dropped for a particular product in the last quarter? Or how do customers feel about the recent changes to a specific offering?
  • A tool to collect VoC data, such as a dedicated customer feedback software or a survey provider
  • VoC feedback and data
  • A team to analyze the feedback and identify patterns

How Voice of the Customer Impacts Your Business

According to research by Qualtrics, offering a strong customer experience is all but guaranteed to improve your sales. 94% of consumers report that they are likely to purchase more from a company with “very good” CX.

But without knowing how your customers actually feel, you can’t offer a strong CX experience.

By capturing VoC, you can connect and engage with customers at every touchpoint in the customer journey and programmatically improve their experience with your company. This technique helps you:

  • Spot early warning and potential brand crisis
  • Evaluate new concepts, ideas, and solutions
  • Customize your products, services, add-ons, and features to meet the needs and wants of your customers
  • Increase customer retention
  • Serve your customers the solutions they need

Reaching out to your customer is the bulk of an effective VoC strategy. A successful methodology will provide you with all the insights you need to understand customer preferences, problems, and complaints.

Before choosing a method or technique, you should first outline a question and an objective for your program. If you start gathering data without an objective in mind, you won’t know how to use the insight to improve your business.

The question can be related to previous metrics, trends, and new customer behaviors. Here are a few examples of what that can look like:

  • Only X% of customers made a repeat purchase of _____ product in Q2 of last year, a drop from a previous year. What changed? How can we improve?
  • How many of our customers feel loyal to our brand? What can we do better?

Note: These are only meant for you and your stakeholders. Here are examples of a few questions you can use in a VoC survey or study.

Now, it’s time to establish an objective: either gauging current CX performance or improving a specific business function or product.

  • Gauging current performance: For many businesses, it’s worth launching a Voice of Customer program to set a baseline to compare future results to. When you make this your objective, you usually ask the same questions during each iteration.
  • Improving a business function or product: VoC strategies are famously used by companies to understand their customers’ needs and improve their products or service offerings.

After identifying a question and objective, you might naturally choose a VoC technique to capture the data, or already have one in mind.

For example, if you’d like to know how customers feel about your service team, you’d choose to survey previous contacts in your CRM who’ve contacted your service department.

Don’t know how exactly you’d reach out? Here are some techniques and methodologies you can use for your Voice of the Customer analytics program.

Customer experience representative interviewing customer in VoC survey

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It’s a well-known fact that it costs organizations five times more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. The value of retaining existing customers over acquiring a new one can’t be overstated.

Understanding your customers and building a solid customer relationship is a methodic, insightful process. There are certain techniques that you can follow to get reliable answers. Companies often use a mixture of different techniques to ensure they're getting the most from their research.

Let’s take a look at some of the Voice of the Customer methods that you can use to collect data.

1. Customer Interviews

Customer interviews are one of the traditional techniques to collect VoC data. It is commonly used to understand a particular customer’s point-of-view regarding product or service issues, attributes, and performance measures.

You can choose to perform this for either a particular customer or for a group of customers with some common attributes. This is usually executed in person, on the phone, or through email.

While the cost of in-person interviews is the highest among all forms of interviews, it is still considered to be the most useful form for building trusting customer relationships. This is because customers perceive this type of interaction as more personal.

2. Online Customer Surveys

Another great way to capture VoC is by conducting online customer surveys. These surveys help you in understanding your customers and addressing the issues they face.

However, if you don't ask the right questions with the help of the right platform, you may never get reliable answers. That's why you need to put in a lot of thought while designing your surveys. With platforms like VWO or SurveyMonkey, you can choose from the different types of surveys available, such as multiple-choice surveys, drop-down surveys, and open-ended surveys.

HubSpot’s customer feedback software is another great tool for setting up online surveys. With this tool, your respondents are automatically connected to a specific contact in your CRM, which requires less manual work from your service or VoC team.

3. Live Chat

According to a study, 48% of people use live chat when reaching out to a company.

Having a live chat option on your website is an incredible method for collecting real-time customer feedback. It also reduces the possibility of your customers feeling unsatisfied with your customer service efforts.

The use of live chat is not limited to listening to customer complaints and resolving them. It's also a good tool to capture Voice of the Customer data. For this, you can schedule a follow-up survey of all the customers connecting with you through a chat.

Not sure how to start? You can use HubSpot Live Chat to get live chat up and running on your website.

4. Social Media

Social media is a potent ingredient of the feedback cocktail, as it provides you the opportunity to have two-way communication with your customers.

On any of the most commonly-used social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, you can tap into relevant ongoing conversations, connect with those customers by actively participating, or quietly listen (while taking notes).

The core strength of social media is that it allows you to have a more direct and real-time conversation with the people using your products or services.

While this is a good way to gather feedback, look for trends, and create stories, it may be more challenging to turn this into hard data. But the upside to this is that you're hearing unfiltered feedback directly from customers.

5. Website Behavior

Your website is a great place for you to capture Voice of Customer data. Besides chat and online surveys, another way to collect this data is by analyzing your customer behavior on the website. You can do it by leveraging tools like heat maps.

You can also opt for a single platform like CrazyEgg that'll allow you to do all this in one tool.

6. Recorded Call Data

If you're planning to leverage historical data, recorded calls might come in handy. Recorded calls with your customers can give you a broad overview of how they perceive your brand, what sort of objections they have, and what else they expect from the company.

Though this technique requires an upfront time investment, it is always advisable to do this regularly. It will also help you train your customer support team with better objection handling, thereby enhancing your customer service.

7. Online Customer Reviews

Your online reputation isn't just the result of what you generate at your end — it includes all instances in which your business appears online, including online reviews. With online review sites like G2 Crowd, Finances Online, TrustRadius, TrustPilot, Capterra, and Angie's List, it's essential to understand the impact they have on your business and how you can use reviews to earn your online reputation.

Moreover, 86% of visitors hesitate to purchase from a business that has online negative reviews. With such statistics, it becomes crucial to not just ensure positive reviews, but also handle negative reviews.

8. In-Person Surveys

Opting for an in-person survey is yet another method to capture the Voice of the Customer. Although this may not be a popular method for large business setups, it's leveraged by lots of medium-sized businesses when conducting customer research — and it can be done using a tool as simple as Google Docs.

9. Net Promoter Score®

Net Promoter Score (NPS®) is a management tool that is used to measure the loyalty of a company's customers. This customer loyalty metric was developed by Fred Reichheld, Bain & Company, and Satmetrix Systems.

NPS gives you quick and reliable feedback from customers. The way the system works is easy. Customers need to answer this simple question on a scale of 0–10:

"How likely are you to recommend our company to a friend or a colleague?"

HubSpot’s customer feedback software is an easy way to get NPS scores, allowing you to keep a pulse on customer sentiment and loyalty.

 

Voice of Customer NPS survey example

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10. Focus Groups

This is where a group of eight to twelve customers meet in a room, where they are asked to share their perceptions, beliefs, and opinions about your product or service. The group participants are free to openly talk with one another.

This data collection method is used to gain insights into customers' prioritization of needs, or to test concepts and get feedback. Focus groups are sometimes used in addition to interviews and surveys as the last step to further investigate and understand the Voice of the Customer for each of the company's touchpoints.

11. Emails

This method can be as informal or as formal as you want it to be. You can send highly personalized emails to particular customers or create a template that can be used for the entire target. You also have the option to either ask for feedback as a response to your email (which might be unstructured and time-consuming) or add a link in the email body to one of your surveys.

12. Dedicated Feedback Form

The last option is to have a dedicated feedback form on your website — and this is more of a mandate than an option. No matter which other methods you plan to choose to capture VoC, you cannot skip having an online feedback form.

Allow your existing customers and website visitors to share their feedback at any point in time. Don't make them wait unless you feel that there is a need to capture their voice.

Another detail to note here is that the majority of these techniques will help your team derive qualitative information from your customers. That means you'll need to ask thought-provoking questions that motivate participants to provide insightful answers.

For some companies that may be easy, others not so much. Keep in mind that it's not the customer's responsibility to provide you with any feedback, let alone productive feedback.

Customer service representative working at home and collecting VoC survey answers

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If you're not getting the results you're hoping for from your VoC techniques, then you may need to reassess the questions that you're asking your customers.

Here are some of the best VoC questions to ask that get effective survey results:

Let’s go over each of these.

1. What characteristics do you look for in a company/product?

This question is a great starting point for a survey or questionnaire.

It removes your company from the conversation and directs the attention to the customer's interests. By asking this type of question first, you give the impression that your interests are more customer-driven.

Pay attention to the vocabulary that your customers use when responding to this question. Even if the responses are similar, the vocabulary that's used can indicate different characteristics of your customers.

For example, if there are responses that use a lot of slang or shorthand, then you can deduce that this feedback is coming from a more casual audience. This will help your team when making big operational decisions like changing a product or restructuring your pricing.

Should you ask this question as multiple choice or open-ended?

Open-ended. That way, you can get to know your audience with much more detail and depth.

2. What matters most to you when selecting a company for [product or service]?

This question is an excellent way to find out what your customers care about the most. Whereas the previous question asks about general characteristics, this question helps your team learn what influences the final purchasing decision.

Is it quality? Price? Availability? Sustainable production? Customer service? Free shipping? Or express shipping regardless of the price?

This question can help you launch an audit of your services and products to ensure you’re meeting customer expectations. Even more importantly, it can help you deduce whether your current business practices are getting in the way of the customer experience.

Most customers won’t reach out and tell you what they prefer when choosing a brand, and some questions skirt around the topic. This question will get straight to the point and give you a clear, actionable directive.

Should you ask this question as multiple choice or open-ended?

Multiple choice. Because most of us make purchasing decisions on common factors such as convenience and price, there’s no need to leave it open-ended. Consider giving customers the ability to choose up to three answers (preferably in order of preference).

3. What comes to mind when you think about [company name/product]?

This question provides your team with an immediate customer reaction to your company or product.

This essentially acts like an approval rating that lets you know how customers feel about your business in the present moment. You can monitor responses to see how they change over time to determine whether or not your company is actually addressing the feedback.

One area where this is exceptionally helpful is during crisis management. If you're not sure whether a crisis is resolved or not, you can use this survey question to get a general feel for how your business continuity plan is affecting your customers.

If you're still seeing negative comments toward your company, then you know that you need to continue working to resolve the crisis.

Should you ask this question as multiple choice or open-ended?

Open-ended. This is a highly subjective question and every customer will answer differently.

Customer experience representation asking Voice of the Customer questions over the phone and taking notes

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4. How can [company name] improve your customer experience?

Admittedly, this question probably won't yield many groundbreaking ideas. No matter how loyal your customers are, they might not understand how your business operates nor might they fathom how hard it is to implement even small changes to the customer experience.

Making changes takes time and costs money — two assets that most businesses will be hesitant to put at risk. So, why do we see this question included in nearly every survey we take?

The answer is customer loyalty. Successful companies recognize that their most valuable customers spend nearly three times more than others.

So, when they're sorting through responses to this question, they use their CRM to pinpoint feedback that's left by their most valuable customers. This way companies can be sure these customers are being included in every business decision.

Should you ask this question as multiple choice or open-ended?

Either/or. A multiple-choice question can have common answers such as “Offer free shipping,” “Offer chat on the website,” or more, depending on what you feel your brand needs to improve. This can help you get clear answers on what you should prioritize without having to sift through paragraphs of writing.

On the other hand, customer experience varies from customer to customer, and a single person’s bad experience may be a catalyst for a major and important change within your organization.

To strike a balance between the two, you can add a text box where customers can elaborate.

5. Name a competitor you would prefer over our product or service and explain why you would choose them.

This question gives you two pieces of information. First, it tells you who your direct competitors are, or at least who your customers believe your competitors are.

This difference is important because your customers may be using a competitor that you're currently unaware of. For example, customers may be supplementing your product or service by using a competitor who's in a completely different marketplace.

The next piece of information that this question provides is why customers would switch to a competitor. It could be because of price, functionality, style, etc. Whatever the reason is, knowing why customers may prefer a competitor can help you address any weaknesses that exist in your products or services.

Should you ask this question as multiple choice or open-ended?

Open-ended. That way, you can find out who your customers think you’re competing with, thereby offering greater insight into where your product lacks.

6. Would you recommend [company/product] and why?

One way to determine customer satisfaction is to see if customers would recommend your company to others.

Customers trust other customers and won't advocate for your product or service if they don't like it. That's because if they recommend a bad product or company, they risk ruining a personal or professional relationship in their own lives. If customers are hesitant to recommend your company, you may need to assess how your marketing, sales, and customer service efforts are affecting the customer's experience.

A good addition to add to this question is to ask to whom they would recommend your product or service. This not only gives you an idea for potential lead opportunities but also helps you gauge how invested customers are in your company.

For example, if a customer said they would recommend a product to their boss or potential lead of their own, you know that your product is significantly meaningful to that customer. If they would only recommend it to a peer or acquaintance, then there may be an opportunity to enhance the customer experience for these users.

Should you ask this question as multiple choice or open-ended?

Both. For the recommendation part, you can create a multiple-choice with simple answers like “Yes” or “No.” Afterward, include the option to elaborate with a text box.

7. Which company have you purchased the most [product you offer] from in the past 12 months?

This is a great question to find out who your strongest competitors are.

It’s similar to number five in that it also mentions your competitors, but this question tells you who your customers have done business with, not who they would do business with. Both are important pieces of data but offer slightly different insights.

After gathering answers for this question, you’ll know who is stealing your business, which can help you bolster your competitive analysis efforts. If you get repeat answers, you can take a closer and much more thorough look at that particular competitor to see what they’re doing that you’re not.

Should you ask this question as multiple choice or open-ended?

Multiple-choice. This makes it easy for customers to choose from your competitors. Don’t forget to include giants such as Amazon or Walmart if you offer a product that can be purchased from those retailers. Last, include a write-in option.

These questions will help you gauge how customers feel about your brand, product, or service, and tell you in what instances they would do business with your competitors.

Now that you have robust data to work with, it’s time to analyze it all and create an action plan.

Voice of the Customer Analytics

A Voice of the Customer analytics program is the systematic method by which companies examine the data from VoC surveys. The purpose of a VoC analytics program is to identify and track trends in customer sentiment, resulting in an action plan to improve the customer experience.

The most important step in a Voice of Customer program is analyzing the data that you’ve gathered.

With the techniques and questions we listed above, you’ll be sure to have some valuable insights. Now, it’s time to analyze all of that data.

Here‘s how to get started.

1. Measure the success of your program on the number or percentage of responses. If you sent out 200 surveys and only received 30 responses, it would be worth taking a second look at the methodology that you used. If you target a young audience, for example, they might prefer social media outreach instead of surveys.

2. Identify trends and common themes. Do most of your customers wish you offered a chat service? Are most customers happy with the responsiveness of your service team? It’s important to know what percentage of people agreed because that way you can prioritize initiatives.

3. Consider adding your findings into a simple reference document (such as a Google Doc). After analyzing the feedback for trends in consumer behavior and preferences, add these new insights into your buyer personas. This helps you gather a more complete picture of your target audience.

4. Visualize these trends and compile them into reports. You can visualize trends using simple tools such as Google Sheets or a more dedicated reporting software such as Lexalytics. Don’t present these reports just yet.

5. Create an action plan. Depending on the themes and trends you found, your action plan will look different. Extending on the chat example, your next step might be to look into investing in live chat software.

6. Present your report and action plan to your team. It’s important to leave the presentation last because that way you have an improvement plan, rather than discouraging your team with potentially negative insights.

By pairing these results with an action plan, you can ensure your team will understand the actions they can take to improve right now.

Still not sure what this can look like for your company? Let’s take a look at some of the best examples of VoC analytics strategies in the industry.

Voice of the Customer Tools

Creating and implementing VOC strategies can be both time- and resource-intensive. Thankfully, there are tools available to help streamline this process.

1. HubSpot

HubSpot’s Customer FeedBack Software empowers companies to take the customers' pulse and ensure they’re capturing critical KPIs. From pre-built NPS, CES, and CSAT surveys to customizable VOC templates, HubSpot has you covered.

2. Medallia

Medallia makes it easy for companies to capture customer signals, route them where they’re most useful and make sense of large data volumes with robust analysis and prediction.

3. InMoment

InMoment provides in-depth VOC for both the customer experience as a whole and also lets your team drill down into users’ in-app experience to provide a more holistic view of how they’re interacting with your brand — and where there’s room to improve.

4. Clarabridge

Clarabridge is all about conversational analytics that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to capture multi-touchpoint consumer data, in turn providing both depth and nuance to customer sentiment and experience analysis.

5. Verint

VOC from Verint focuses on going beyond surveys to collect unstructured data across all customer touchpoints. Verint’s solution also offers automated analysis to help connect data silos and reduce the risk of missing key consumer data.

6. Sentisum

Sentisum looks to minimize consumer friction across channels by providing categorization and analysis for customer support conversations. Equipped with accurate, granular, and real-time data, companies are better positioned to identify and resolve key customer concerns.

Voice of the Customer Template

Voice of the customer template software from HubSpot

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To make the most of VOC efforts, you need a reliable template that generates predictable results. Tools like HubSpot’s Customer Feedback Software can help with these efforts, but there are also some basic template guidelines worth following no matter how you choose to create your VOC.

First make sure it’s clear, concise, and to the point. VOC efforts are all about understanding your customers — they’re not exercises in marketing or customer conversion muscle. Make your questions clear and get to them ASAP.

Speaking of questions, some of the most common include:

  1. Where have you heard about [product or service] in the last six months?
  2. Which social media platforms do you use every week? (include a list of options)
  3. How does [brand or company] compare to the competition?
  4. How appealing are [specific services or products] to you? (offer a rating scale)
  5. What matters most when selecting a company or service? (offer choices such as price, experience, etc. or allow customers to fill in a free-form text field)
  6. How satisfied are you with [current product or service]?
  7. What do you like best about [current product or service]?
  8. What could be improved about [current product or service]?
  9. Would you like a follow-up from [company]? What form of communication do you prefer?

The goal here is to keep your VOC surveys focused: If you’re targeting customer service, ask questions that provide data relevant to this metric. If consumer experience with products or services is the priority, design your survey to reflect this aim.

Voice of the Customer Examples

If you're still not sure how your business can benefit from the VoC methodology, then it may help to look at some real companies that benefited from following this method.

Below, we highlight three businesses that profited from applying VoC to their organization.

1. Subbly

Subbly is a SaaS ecommerce platform that's used by entrepreneurs and marketers. When the company adopted VoC, it added a feedback page to its website and set up a feedback monitoring system for its Facebook page. Now users can comment on others' feedback that's posted to the company's website and vote on ideas that they like best.

Subbly's CEO, Stefan Pretty, believes that "between all these methods of collecting the voice of the customer, [they] harness their [opinions] on the best way to run Subbly, to shape [their] product roadmap and the features [they] roll out." Pretty notes that this approach has paid off too, as the company has become much more customer-centric and has even rolled out two new features based on the voice of the customer.Voice of the Customer Example: Subbly

2. Plainview

Plainview is a B2B SaaS company that offers software for strategic planning and resource management. It regularly hosts meetings called "Inner Circles" where customers participate in interviews and attend focus groups. Since 2006, Plainview has hosted about 40 sessions and has met with over 1,000 customers from 300 companies.

This VoC approach helped the company make a major design change to its product. Plainview's CMO, Brian Urioste, discussed how the "Inner Circles" pointed out flaws in the software's navigational design, which was preventing customers from achieving their goals. Urioste noted that "even though the feedback and changes extended [their] product development cycle, [they] ended up with a product that better served the needs of all of [their] customers."Voice of the Customer Example: Plainview

3. Convertize

Convertize is a content management software that lets customers A/B test their content when publishing it to their website. They benefited from the VoC methodology by gathering feedback during product releases and using that criticism to improve their new products.

For example, when they released their persuasive notifications feature, they also sent out surveys and sought out reviews to see how users felt about this product. Some users reported issues with the feature blocking important content on their site and had to remove it because they could not adjust it.

After seeing these reviews, Convertize moved quickly and resolved the problem two weeks after it was first reported. Convertize's CRO Project Manager, Benjamin Ligier, highlighted that not only did this feedback "solve the customer's immediate problem, but also gave [them] a much-improved feature."

Voice of the Customer Example:  Convertize

4. Cox Communications

In the span of 18 months, telecoms company Cox Communications was able to reduce customer churn, identify key customer experience (CX) trends and improve their Net Promoter Score across multiple channels. By collecting data from customer touch points including sales, retail, call centers, and field service, Cox has made VOC a central function of business operations, in turn driving increased ROI.

Voice of the Customer Example:  Cox Communications

5. Sky Spain

By implementing a robust VOC program, Sky Spain created end-to-end customer journey maps that helped identify key issues and pain points, analyze customer preferences to create targeted content, and additionally provide locally-relevant insights to help facilitate the transition of this UK-based company into the Spanish market.

Voice of the Customer Example:  Sky Spain

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6. SharkNinja

Struggling to connect reliable housewares products with robust customer service, SharkNinja implemented a comprehensive VOC plan to bridge the gap. Now equipped to collect and analyze consumer insights, the company has reduced call handle time by 15%, decreased the total operational costs of customer service, and improved communication across the organization.

Voice of the Customer Example:  SharkNinja

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7. Associated Bank

With gaps and inconsistencies in VOC data collection and analysis, Associated Bank needed a new approach. By creating and deploying a holistic VOC program, the company was able to reduce the time required to generate actionable customer feedback from six weeks to real-time and saw a 6-point jump in overall customer experience scores.

Voice of the Customer Example:  Associated Bank

8. Ohio Mutual Insurance Group

Looking to differentiate their business, Ohio Mutual Insurance Group created an end-to-end VOC program to both capture customer preferences and gain a competitive edge. The approach worked: the company saw a 25% increase in customer email survey response, decreased survey response time from weeks to days, and developed a unified approach to CX across all customer channels.

Voice of the Customer Example:  Ohio Mutual Insurance

9. Volvo

To better understand its buyers and improve overall customer service, Volvo dove into the VOC process and discovered that customers preferred shorter surveys with open-ended questions. This allowed the company to generate more in-depth responses to survey questions, in turn helping the carmaker identify top-performing staff, drill down to specific customer concerns, touchpoints, and prioritize issues at dealerships that require immediate resolution.

For all these companies, a Voice of Customer program was critical in their improvement and growth. The bottom line is to be highly customer-centric to engage and retain your existing customers.

Voice of the Customer Example: Volvo

A Voice of Customer Program Will Lead To Business Growth

Implement a Voice of the Customer program to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. You can be a pathfinder and hero in the industry by investing in products, enhancements, and services that will make your company stand out and grow better.

Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Originally published Nov 11, 2021 5:00:00 PM, updated November 11 2021

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