How to use Voice of Customer at a PLG Company: Insights from Apollo.io’s CPO

Tiffany Go
Head of Product Marketing
November 15, 2023

Understanding the Voice of Customer (VOC) is vital in the fast-paced world of Product-Led Growth.

Recently, we had the chance to sit down with Chief Product Officer, Abhishek Viswanathan from one of the most successful PLG companies, Apollo.io. During the Roundtable: Connect Customer Feedback to Revenue Impact Abishek shared how Apollo.io set up a successful VOC program and how they have use it to 9x revenue and reduce support requests by 40%.

Read on to get the the highlights from our Q&A Session that will help you understand how to get started with a Voice of Customer initiative.

What Voice of Customer looks like at Apollo.io

Question 1: What advice do you have for product leaders starting a voice of customer program?

Abishek: Focus on a core problem and tie the VOC program to specific business outcomes. Design the program around these outcomes for more tremendous success. You need to have a core problem you're trying to solve. You should not set up a VOC program just for the sake of a VOC program.

At Apollo.io, we wanted to focus on retention, and one of the input metrics for retention is self-serviceability or reduction in friction. And we tried to debunk the input metric into multiple themes, like what is the reason why there is friction in adoption? If you have a business outcome tied to a set of input metrics that a VOC program can support, then you should design the VOC program around it. If you have a generic VoC program just getting customer insights and not tied to a particular business outcome, it is less likely to succeed.

Question 2: How do you get executive buy-in for a VOC program?

Abishek: Use data to demonstrate the program's potential impact on critical metrics like gross dollar retention and cost reduction. Design the program for specific outcomes to strengthen the case for implementation.

I'm a math person, so I recommend setting up a funnel. Suppose your human inquiry rate is high. In that case, you can look at the cost of service, and you can also attribute that every time there is an interaction that a customer has with a support channel, it reduces their gross dollar retention. So if you take the combination of both of those and if you can estimate the impact of, if you reduce the inputs to friction through a VOC program, you understand what the inputs of friction are. Here is how you can impact overall gross dollar retention at a minimum. It reduces the cost and opportunity cost as a contact center, which you can use for things that are much better for expanding the business.

The best way is to convince yourself that it's worth it by estimating the impact. Once you do that, you design the program for that specific outcome. At Apollo, we knew the human inquiry rate correlates to retention, so we said if we reduced that by 40%, this would impact retention in the long term. Getting buy-in was more of a tactic after that.

Question 3: Which team set up the central data repository for the program, and do you have any tactical suggestions?

Abishek: Our BizOps team played a central role, ensuring that the program had all necessary data and reporting in one place. Regular meetings and clear accountability helped drive the program's success. Yeah, consider this like a program. The setup of the data is one part.

We set up a centralized program to have all of the data and the reporting in one place. So every product team could access that. And then we also had governance around it. Every team had signed up for a goal, so we would meet monthly to understand what we see in the data. What are the top themes? What is it that we have fixed in the last month? How have our trends for human inquiry rate gone in the previous month? And we are driving accountability through that single forum where we have all the PMS.

Our very talented BizOps team runs the program and the cross-functional coordination. The BizOps team runs the show because it's rare that the Product team singularly owns fixes. Messaging, marketing, website, knowledge base articles, support interactions, and fixes needed across the company exist - having BizOps support that centrally was phenomenally impactful for us.

Question 4: What was the most challenging part of evolving your VOC process?

Abishek: The most challenging part is the program setup and governance. I wish somebody had told me, here are your input metrics and the outcome metric. So we had to sit down and brainstorm, and two folks from our BizOps team, Nathan and LindLi, were extremely helpful here. What would the right outcome metric be? For everybody, there will be a different outcome metric that you might have to go and create. That was the most challenging part—the most surprising thing. The most surprising thing was not very surprising. Every team had precisely three or four issues they had to fix. That significantly dropped the human inquiry rate. It was maniacally similar to three or four issues. It was a short list. So before, we had that long list of everything customers were complaining about; it was so overwhelmingly long that teams were almost scared of touching it.

After identifying the Pareto, figuring out the Human Inquiry Rate impact, and seeing themes from the Enterprise cohort, every team had three to four issues. The number of issues is low. You can focus on fewer issues and get a ton of impact if you connect revenue data with themes across multiple channels and tie it to a particular outcome, like the Human Inquiry Rate.

Question 5: How do you weigh and prioritize different sources of feedback?

Abishek: We prioritize feedback based on total license value and customer profiles, ensuring we focus on the most relevant and impactful feedback for our target customer segment. We still look at it a little bit more in-depth with, is this the right customer profile we should even be serving?

Our product is such that we have specific profiles of customers who might pay a lot of money, but they need to start using the product for the core jobs to be done that we are helping customers go after. We use ARR quite a bit to look at prioritizing, but we also look at the customer profile to see if this is the tier of customers we want to serve. Because you can go and fix the root cost, but the underlying problem might be much more significant. The product is not suited for that customer profile. That is saying that this doesn't work for them. So it's a combination of those.

Want to read a full recap of the roundtable? Check out this blog post, How Apollo.io reduced support rates by 40% and maximized revenue with customer feedback.

Get in touch to chat with the Enterpret team, follow us on LinkedIn or X for more VoC insights, and sign up for future events.

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Enterpret allowed us to listen to specific issues and come closer to our Members - prioritizing feedback which needed immediate attention, when it came to monitoring reception of new releases: Enterpret picked up insights for new updates and became the eyes of whether new systems and functionality were working well or not.
Louise Sellars
Analyst, Customer Insights
Enterpret is one of the most powerful tools in our toolkit. It's very Member-friendly. We've been able to share how other teams can modify and self-serve in Enterpret. It's bridged a gap to getting access to Member feedback, and I see all our teams finding ways to use Enterpret to answer Member-related questions.
Dina Mohammad-Laity
VP of Data
The big win-win is our VoC program enabled us to leverage our engineering resources to ship significantly awesome and valuable features while minimizing bug fixes and" keep the lights on" work. Magnifying and focusing on the 20% that causes the impact is like finding the needle in a haystack, especially when you have issues coming from all over the place
Abishek Viswanathan
CPO, Apollo.io
Since launching our Voice of Customer program six months ago, our team has dropped our human inquiry rate by over 40%, improved customer satisfaction, and enabled our team to allocate resources to building features that increase LTV and revenue.
Abishek Viswanathan
CPO, Apollo.io
Enterpret's Gong Integration is a game changer on so many levels. The automated labeling of feedback saves dozens of hours per week. This is essential in creating a customer feedback database for analytics.
Michael Bartimer
Revenue Operations Lead
Enterpret has made it so much easier to understand our customer feedback. Every month I put together a Voice of Customer report on feedback trends. Before Enterpret it would take me two weeks - with Enterpret I can get it done in 3 days.
Maya Bakir
Product Operations, Notion
The Enterpret platform is like the hero team of data analysts you always wanted - the ability to consolidate customer feedback from diverse touch points and identify both ongoing and emerging trends to ensure we focus on and build the right things has been amazing. We love the tools and support to help us train the results to our unique business and users and the Enterpret team is outstanding in every way.
Larisa Sheckler
COO, Samsung Food
Enterpret makes it easy to understand and prioritize the most important feedback themes. Having data organized in one place, make it easy to dig into the associated feedback to deeply understand the voice of customer so we can delight users, solve issues, and deliver on the most important requests.
Lauren Cunningham
Head of Support and Ops
With Enterpret powering Voice of Customer we're democratizing feedback and making it accessible for everyone across product, customer success, marketing, and leadership to provide evidence and add credibility to their strategies and roadmaps.
Michael Nguyen
Head of Research Ops and Insights, Figma
Boll & Branch takes pride in being a data driven company and Enterpret is helping us unlock an entirely new source of data. Enterpret quantifies our qualitative data while still keeping customer voice just a click away, adding valuable context and helping us get a more complete view of our customers.
Matheson Kuo
Senior Product Analyst, Boll & Branch
Enterpret has transformed our ability to use feedback to prioritize customers and drive product innovation. By using Enterpret to centralize our data, it saves us time, eliminates manual tagging, and boosts accuracy. We now gain near real-time insights, measure product success, and easily merge feedback categories. Enterpret's generative AI technology has streamlined our processes, improved decision-making, and elevated customer satisfaction
Nathan Yoon
Business Operations, Apollo.io
Enterpret helps us have a holistic view from our social media coverage, to our support tickets, to every single interaction that we're plugging into it. Beyond just keywords, we can actually understand: what are the broader sentiments? What are our users saying?
Emma Auscher
Global VP of Customer Experience, Notion
The advantage of Enterpret is that we’re not relying entirely on human categorization. Enterpret is like a second brain that is looking out for themes and trends that I might not be thinking about.”
Misty Smith
Head of Product Operations, Notion
As a PM, I want to prioritize work that benefits as many of our customers as possible. It can be too easy to prioritize based on the loudest customer or the flavor of the moment. Because Enterpret is able to compress information across all of our qualitative feedback sources, I can make decisions that are more likely to result in positive outcomes for the customer and our business.
Duncan Stewart
Product Manager
We use Enterpret for our VoC & Root Cause Elimination Program - Solving the issues of aggregating disparate sources of feedback (often tens of thousands per month) and distilling it into specific reasons, with trends, so we can see if our product fixes are reducing reasons.
Nathan Yoon
Business Operations, Apollo.io