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Voice of the Customer

listening to the voice of the customer is key to to helping you understand the critical elements of your products and/or services.

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VOC stands for Voice of the Customer, it's a term used for a data driven plan to discover what your customers want and need.

Gathering VOC

Gathering VOC should be performed methodically. The two most popular methods of collecting VOC are:

  1. Indirect
  2. Direct

Indirect data collection for VOC involves passive information exchange:

  • Warranty claims
  • Customer complaints/compliments
  • Service calls
  • Sales reports

Indirect methods are less effective, sometimes dated and require heavy interpretation. Indirect methods are also more difficult to confirm.

Direct data collection methods for VOC are active & planned customer engagements:

  • Conducting interviews
  • Customer surveys
  • Market research
  • Hosting focus groups

Direct methods are typically more effective for several reasons:

  • Less need to "interpret meaning"
  • Researchers can go a little deeper when interacting with customers
  • Customers are aware of their participation and will respond better upon follow up
  • Researchers can properly plan engagements (questions, sample size, information collection techniques etc.)

Gathering VOC requires consideration of many factors such as product or services types, customer segments, manufacturing methods or facilities etc. All of this information will influence any sampling strategy. You should Consider which factors are important and build a sample size plan around them.

You should also be sure to consider response rates and adjust the initial sample strategy to ensure adequate input is received. Once a sampling plan is in place begin collecting data via the direct and indirect methods discussed earlier. After gathering VOC it will be necessary to translate it into something meaningful…CTQ's.

Critical to Quality - CTQ

CTQ stands for Critical to Quality. CTQs are translated from VOC. VOC is often vague, emotional or simply generalizations about products or services. CTQ's are the quantifiable, measureable and meaningful translation of VOC.

Organizing VOC helps to identify CTQs. One effective way to organize VOC is to group or bucket it using an affinity diagram. Affinity diagrams are ideal for large amounts of soft data resulting from brainstorming sessions or surveys etc.

Example of an Affinity Diagram

Affinity Diagram

Steps for conducting an Affinity Diagram exercise:

  1. Clearly define the question or focus of the exercise ("why are associates late for work")
  2. Record all participant responses on note cards or post-it notes (this is the sloppy part, record everything!)
  3. Lay out all note cards or post the post-it's onto a wall
  4. Look for and Identify common themes
  5. Begin moving the note cards or post-it notes into the themes until all responses are allocated
  6. Re-evaluate and make adjustments

Confirm CTQ's with Customers

After determining all CTQ's, confirm them with the customer. Confirming can be accomplished by conducting surveys through one or more of the following methods:

  • Group sessions
  • One on one meetings
  • Phone interviews
  • Electronic means (chat, email, social media etc.)
  • Physical mail

Consider your confirming audience and try to avoid factors that may influence or bias responses such as inconvenience or overly burdensome time commitments.

Translating CTQ's to Requirements

Lastly, CTQ's must be transformed into specifics that can be built upon in a process, measured and managed. A Requirements Tree translates CTQ's to meaningful and measureable customer requirements.

Requirements Tree

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