Voice of the Customer Consulting and Training

Are your products focused on meeting customer needs rather than delivering the next great technology or good idea? Does your team understand what customers really want and not what you think they want? Are you able to identify the unstated or unspoken customer needs – unrecognized needs, needs not traditionally associated with your product, or needs that would provide an opportunity for excitement if addressed. Voice of the Customer (VOC) investigation goes to the source – the customer – to identify both the stated and unstated needs of the customer so that you can deliver a product that will provide superior value by addressing what is of priority to the customer.

VOC is intended to better understand these customer needs and prioritize how important each of these needs are to the customer. VOC goes beyond traditional market research and surveys to better understand the customer needs and uncover the unstated needs. VOC attempts to find how customers value the various functions and features of a product or their worth to the customer. A well-executed Voice of the Customer investigation results in fundamental insights into customer needs that lead to products that provide superior value to the customer.

We can assist in Voice of the Customer investigation by performing the following steps:

  1. Preparation and Planning
    We start by developing an understanding of the product(s),markets and customers, and existing the existing issues and needs. We would conduct interviews, participate in briefings, and review existing data. We would then conduct a VOC workshop for company personnel involved in this effort to review VOC objectives and methods. We would then work with company personnel to define the market segments that the VOC effort is targeting. Based on this, we would be able to identify the specific customers or customer characteristics that we would want to investigate with the VOC effort, This would be followed by planning sessions where we would work with your personnel to develop a plan of how we would undertake a VOC investigation. The plan would address the target market, target customers/potential customers or customer characteristics, VOC objectives, areas of investigation, methods to be used, and timing and resources. Depending upon the nature of the product and the markets, potential VOC techniques to be considered include:

    • Market research
    • Customer surveys (both potential and current customers)
    • Customer interviews and meetings
    • Focus groups
    • Ethnographic research (see glossary for definitions)
    • Contextual inquiry or empathic design studies (see glossary for definitions)
    • Customer feedback to Sales, Customer Support/Customer Service
    • User group feedback
    • Product return and warranty claim data
    • Web-based surveys, conjoint analysis¬†and virtual focus groups

    As part of this preparation, we would work with the team to develop scripts, interview guides or other tools to support investigation and data collection.

  2. VOC Investigation
    We would assist or conduct the VOC investigation as dictated by the plan. Even when we conduct the VOC investigation, we still recommend participation by your personnel to directly see and hear the customer needs first hand. If techniques such as focus groups or market research were chosen, we would help identify other resources to perform the work and coordinate these efforts. For techniques such as interviews, empathic design, or ethnographic studies, we would conduct or support the investigation ourselves. The scope and duration of this phase is dependent on the VOC plan developed in the prior step. Conjoint analysis might be used to determine the value of a particular capability to a customer. Product concepts and prototypes might be developed to obtain specific feedback from customers. One of the constraining factors to recognize is the time it can take to recruit participants or set up interviews. However, this time is well-worth avoiding the risk of a me-too product or a product that doesn’t capture customer’s interest.
  1. Data Synthesis and Summarization
    At the conclusion of the field work, we would work with a small group of company personnel to review the data (e.g., interview notes, observation notes, video or audio recordings, etc.). The objective would be to synthesize and summarize the
    investigation data into a summarized and meaningful set of findings that could be directly used to support development efforts. This can be documented in working documents or assembled in a more formal report.

Once the voice of the customer is better understood, we can subsequently help to apply this to the development of a new product through requirements definition. One technique that we recommend is quality function deployment (QFD). We can provide QFD training, facilitation, and consulting to guide a team in developing a product strategy, developing product requirements and specifications, and developing initial product concepts. The rationale for using QFD is explained in this paper.

For further information, contact Kenneth Crow at DRM Associates
Phone +1 310-377-5569
Email: k.crow@npd-solutions.com