Lorraine Marzilli Lomas – Chapter Sixteen

Lorraine Marzilli Lomas

Driving Results: Listening to the Voice of the Customer

21st Century Marketing is a hot topic for discussion. The advent of the Internet and e-commerce marketing and information gathering techniques has both complicated and facilitated marketing initiatives, making it possible for even the smallest enterprise to go global – with all the logistical complexities entailed in the process. At the same time, the internet has made it increasingly easier and cheaper to gather information about your prospective customers. Savvy, successful companies who want to get to or remain at the top of the food chain must be able to determine the appropriate marketing communications mix and message for their products and services to reach and persuade those customers. To complicate matters further, the internet has created a sharper, more empowered consumer who has access to technology that facilitates research into alternative products and services.

The voice of the customer (VOC) is an in-depth, customer-centric process businesses go through to capture their customers’ expectations, preferences, needs, desires and aversions. It is not only a market research technique that can provide a detailed outline of customer wants and needs in a hierarchical, prioritized format, but also a system to cultivate customer managed relationships. VOC works hand-in-hand with other Lean methodologies and Six Sigma tools to bring down marketing costs and eliminate waste and defects that can eat up a marketing budget without benefitting the bottom line.

This chapter will help you to:

  • Understand the importance of integrating VOC into the overall business strategy.
  • Grasp the basics of the VOC process.
  • Learn what happens when everything goes wrong.
  • Create a new level of trust by paying close attention to VOC.

The VOC Process: Why Being Customer-Driven Matters

Many Lean and Six Sigma initiatives concentrate on internal processes and procedures with a focus on eliminating waste and maximizing benefits to the corporate bottom line (the Voice of the Business). It is easy for the VOC to get lost in the technicality of the metrics used to institute improvement. No matter what industry you are in, if you lose sight of your customers’ wants and needs, eliminating waste in your processes and procedures will do little good because your sales base and market share will dwindle into oblivion. In other words, if you lose sight of your customer, you ultimately lose sight of your profit base. Businesses are in business to a) serve customers, and b) make profit. If you neglect your customers, you neglect your profits as well.

VOC helps your change initiative teams identify, select and evaluate marketing projects that will drive results straight to the bottom line (increased sales) as opposed to top line (cost) savings. One study by NIST claims poorly designed VOC data collection systems and the lack of VOC tools cost U.S. corporations almost $100 billion per year in failed technology projects.1

Effective VOC processes, on the other hand, identify and distill problems, their cost/revenue implications and the root causes of those problems. The inherent dangers of not having an effectual and balanced VOC process include:

  • Incorrectly set customer expectations
  • Increased customer-caused defects (mistakes)
  • Unnecessary re-engineering of product and processes due to misidentification of root causes
  • An improper focus on customer dissatisfiers that neglects identifying what the company is doing right
  • Implementing firefighting techniques to close the gap between customer expectations and product/service delivery

Successful VOC processes provide a comprehensive understanding of customer requirements. In turn, your organization will have a common language for your project team, critical input for setting design specifications for new products or services, a useful platform for product innovation and distinguish the best channels for the marketing mix.

Developing a Quality VOC Process

Before we can discuss specific metrics used to measure VOC, we first need a proper VOC process in place. What does that process look like? Ideally, a robust VOC process includes seven factors:2

  • Clear and identifiable ownership over the process;
  • Unified feedback and quality data collection;

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