Voice of the Customer

All businesses, no matter their product or service, exist by virtue of satisfied customers.  In best and desired circumstances, those customers represent a base that sustains and grows.

But it doesn’t happen by magic.  Business must satisfy customer expectations by delivery on needs and wants.  Complicating matters, there is a savvy customer class:  The Internet has enabled the ready review of, and reportage on, products and services; the delivery of surveys to e-mail recipients; discussion forums highlighting the good and the bad – all leading to highly educated consumers.   In a constantly changing world, businesses must remain current and even ahead of the curve in bringing new products and services to market that predict and match evolving and wholly new customer expectations.

How does business best manage this?  Businesses must listen to their customers’ voices  – ideally through the “Voice of the Customer” (VOC) process.  VOC fits squarely within other Lean and Six Sigma methodologies and tools in making on-target deliveries to customers, versus the waste of delivering on misunderstood expectations, and closes any gaps between true customer expectations and actual products/service deliveries.

Business strategies that do not accommodate active listening for what customers have to say regarding wants and needs will lose market share, revenue, and any hope of an edge for cutting their way into the streaming future.  Here, competitors will serve and gain what the ignorant, unlistening business loses.

A true “hearing” of VOC involves an accurate collection of data with qualified interpretation.  In gaining the widest and most accurate VOC, a number of tools can be employed, each with their own specific advantages and disadvantages, depending on cost, type of customer, type of business, and allied products and services.  Some of these include:  mail surveys, telephone surveys, internet surveys, focus groups, in-person interviews, intercepts, and customer complaints.

Recognize that a variety of listening tools and measures exist for a reason.  For example, while customer complaints can be very illuminating as regards potential defects in a product, yielding the necessity for a quick course of corrective action, they can also be biased or inaccurate.  People, when in complaint mode, may exaggerate or forget important details.  In establishing VOC for your organization, you’ll want to evaluate various survey methods and establish your own mix as relates to the business, customers, and products/services.

Once you have an active, accurate, and ongoing VOC program in place, you can best maintain and grow saleable products and services, increasing your market share.  Further, a strong VOC process can help to turn inevitable mistakes into successes by turning product failures around through re-tuning and sizing deliveries to customers.

VOC is essential in establishing, securing, and growing a loyal customer base.

About the Author: Lorraine Marzilli Lomas is an innovative, out-of-the-box thinker, communicator, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and marketing professional with an MBA in Information Technology and Knowledge Management. Currently studying for a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree, specializing in Lean Marketing, she has a passion for organizational training and strategic maneuverings.

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