Vocal minority and silent majority: Understanding the voices of customer feedback

Vocal minority and silent majority: Understanding the voices of customer feedback

Kudos! You did it! You have successfully launched your new product or introduced a new feature and now, among all the exciting challenges that are part and parcel of product management, you have to deal with customer feedback. However one thing that you need to keep in mind, besides making sure that you’re gathering all the user feedback you can possibly get, is whether your feedbjack accurately represents the majority of your customers. So, in order to make sure that all sides of the spectrum are equally represented, consider the following:

To make your product processes more democratic, make sure that you listen to your vocal minority, but keep an eye on the silent majority.

But, first things first, let’s start by defining some terms. Vocal minority is the group of users that will tell you what they think about your product (and where to put it, sorry couldn’t resist). They will mention you on social media, write elaborate reviews and email your customer service team.

The vocal minority can be further subdivided in two categories: the VIPs and those at- risk. The VIPs, as their name denotes, are your all-star, loyal customers. They actively engage in every platform, refer your product to their friends and buy your product on a regular basis.

Now, let’s move to those at-risk. Those are the customers who usually had an unpleasant experience with your product. And, trust me, they’re going to be vocal about it! From our experience with customer feedback, we came to the conclusion that highly dissatisfied or highly satisfied customers are the ones that tend to be a lot more vocal. And the reason behind that tendency, according to Gao et al. (2014), is that customers are trying to achieve a sense of balance through the process. Specifically, he claims that “Highly positive and highly negative consumption experiences threaten the individual’s sense of balance and motivate them to externalize their feelings by expressing extreme opinions about the consumption experience, which will then restore balance.” Simply put, users found at the ends of the quality spectrum are more likely to evoke extreme opinions and speak out. Thus, their feedback may be more likely to be heard, but it can be less informative due to the more intrinsic user motives.

Brands only hear from less than 1% of their customer base

Another issue you may bump into when focusing on your vocal minority is alienating the silent majority of your customers and driving your product down a road of limited usefulness. More specifically, research from the Apprentive shows that brands only hear from less than 1% of their customer base. This means that the staggering percentage of the remaining 99% is underrepresented or, even worse, not represented at all. These customers span across a broad spectrum of sentiment and tend to fall somewhere in the middle of loving your brand and being at risk for churn. Therefore, by having the vocal minority be your only source of input and product validation, you run the risk of having the needs of the silent majority be rarely prioritized.

However, by no means we propose that you should ignore your vocal minority. They are probably your most influential and highest paying customers, so their continued satisfaction is definitely important. What we propose instead is to stop relying exclusively on easy-to-get feedback from these users, and make sure your silent majority has a voice too. In order to collect meaningful, decision-driving feedback, you need to qualify what feedback represents what viewpoint and how prevalent that viewpoint is, so that you can act proportionately. Decide where to allocate your resources by determining which improvements will have the biggest impact on your business in order to balance the conflicting needs of your customers.

As you continue to grow your product you have to make sure that you won’t base your product development to only the squeakiest wheels on the far ends of your consumer spectrum. There is endless untapped potential in prioritizing customer feedback from your silent majority. This is why you need to make sure that everyone’s voice is equally heard so as to keep the needs of all users part of your prioritization process. But, how do you manage to hear more of your customer base and unlock the silent majority of your customers? This is something we are planning to touch upon in a following blog post, so stay tuned!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Aggelos Bakos
Authored by Aggelos Bakos
Software engineer and guitar player.