Criticizing Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs is like speaking out against motherhood and apple pie, writes marketing consultant Ron Shevlin. Yet, he says, there are (at least) two problems with the “voice of the customer” that many marketers don’t take into consideration:

1. It’s not really the customer’s voice.
The prompts included in survey questions may or may not reflect what respondents really think or what they’ve done. They often select a prompt because it most closely matches the answer they want to give. Given the opportunity, they might describe it differently.
If that wasn’t bad enough, market researchers take the linguistic limitations they create, then go and misinterpret the responses.

2. Customers don’t always have a voice to contribute.
Market researchers routinely ask consumers “what influenced you to buy this product?”
Often, consumers don’t really know what influences their decisions. Even when we think we know, we often lie to ourselves–as well as to researchers–about those reasons because we don’t want to appear (even to ourselves) to make decisions for the wrong reasons.

In conclusion, What we really need to focus on is understanding the gap between voice and behavior. That is: Why do consumers say one thing, yet do another?