Voice of the Customer

Every business in whatever type of industry has a target customer. A company’s objective, for it to last in the business and thrive, is not just to satisfy these customers but make them delighted. Following the Rule of Five, every delighted customer will brag his product or service experience to five other people.

Out of curiosity these five people will now try the product or service. This is additional income for the company without spending anything for advertisement. In case the customer is not satisfied with the service or the product, he will talk to countless people expressing his discomfort and frustration with it. Indeed, the customer is the least expensive yet the most powerful marketing tool.

The most effective way to gauge whether a product or service is effective or not is through its end users. Voice of the customer or VOC is the customer’s perception of a certain product or service. It is program initiated by companies to understand their customer at the same time protect their revenue.

The tool is essential for companies to determine what service or product to offer. In a market where competition is very stiff, winning and keeping customers is extremely vital. The program also identifies the products and services significant feature that needs improvement. The program gives the company direction as to what factor of the product or business should be focused on too.

This six sigma tool enables businesses to determine key factors of customer satisfaction which is done by getting the baseline information of customer satisfaction parameters. Voice of the customer is documented using surveys, direct interviews with the consumer, focus groups, customer observations, and field groups.

After creating a product plan where target customers are defined, subsequently the company has to gather the customer’s requirements. The process includes several activities such as identifying the target customers, how many customers to contact to come up with a concrete study, who among the customer should be contacted, and how much resources are needed to generate enough information on VOC.

The purpose of VOC is to be always proactive about customer’s reactions. Since this is a feedback mechanism, the ultimate question has always been – Are you satisfied with the service or the product that was provided to you? A close-ended question which should be immediately followed by the question “why” to understand the customers concerns.

Voice of the customer program passes thru five steps of gathering and translating accumulated information. Here is the quick view of the VOC process for better understanding.

  1. Customers are identified as well as what the company needs to know about them. Companies are not just concerned about determining their target market. Identifying the requirements of their target consumer is also necessary. Every product study requires the participation of its end user. If the company wants to enhance a product or service or totally change its features, it is very important to hear how the customers want the product or service to be.

  2. Gather and evaluate the feedback or survey results. The number of responses is very essential. With an insufficient number of responses you will not be able to generate concrete conclusions. Surveys should consider three important factors about its respondents: age, gender, and location. It is improper to have respondents coming from one location or from one age group only. The result may not be as informative as what the company wanted it to be. Also, companies need to consider how involved the customers are with the product, how they use it use.

  3. Create a solution list that is in the customer’s language. It is very seldom that one customer response is similar to another response. By creating a solution list, customer responses are filtered and grouped according to the company’s specifications thus making it easier to identify the focus area and avoid redundancy.

  4. Transform the customer’s language to CTQ requirements. There are instances that several responses only address one CTQ requirement. To narrow down the list, customer’s language should be translated to CTQ conditions.

  5. Create provisions for CTQs. Defining the CTQ’s specifications will generate a more definite solution. Specification should always be based on data gathered. The illustration will show how gathered responses were translated to CTQ requirement.

Some extra tips:

  • Active interaction between customers and the manufacturer’s representative is better than just having the end users fill up a survey sheet.

  • Face to face conversation gives additional insight that a written survey cannot produce. It is imperative to determine the customer’s basic need.

  • Most of the time consumers will respond to “how a certain need can be addressed” rather than just telling what the need is.

  • The product or service development team should keep on asking why a consumer is unsatisfied until they are able to uncover the main need.

  • Common information should be broken down into specific requirements.

  • Probing helps a lot.

  • All information provided by the customer should be clear and should be able to define the root problem.

  • It is also important that the surveyor addresses or acknowledges the customer’s needs. Needs raised by customers are not in the same way important. Give weight to needs that give greater impact to the product. This can be identified by the mere number of respondents having similar responses. It is also essential to recognize how agreeable a particular need is in the customer’s purchase decision.

There are several ways to determine the effectiveness of a service or product. CTQ is just one of the tools that can aid companies to address customer satisfaction issues. Identifying what the customer requires and addressing it does not mean that the service or product is perfect and does not need further innovation.

Even if the company is able to identify the “spoken” needs of the customer, there’s always an opportunity to uncover the “unspoken” needs. Unspoken needs can be determined through the feedback of the development team, the marketing team, or even by the feedback of customer support representatives.

What is important is that the company knows what makes the customer purchase a product or patronize a service and vice verse. Factors affecting consumers buying decision is vital before presenting a product development plan.