Roundtable: Voice of the Customer

Every month, ASQ selects a quality-themed topic or question for Influential Voices bloggers to discuss as part of a round table. The April topic is Voice of the Customer.

What exactly should voice of the customer mean to the quality professional? How important is it? What are the best ways to gather it?

If you’re interested in taking part in future roundtables, please contact social@asq.org.

Luciana Paulise is a business consultant and founder of Biztorming Training & Consulting. She blogs about quality and continuous improvement for small and medium size businesses, both in English and in Spanish, at www.biztorming.com.

The customer is always right, but how do we know what do they mean by right?

Common tools to capture the voice of the customer are surveys, focus groups and mystery shoppers, though there are new tools and methodologies to get the VOC faster and cheaper.

• Pilot tests: many Entrepreneurs are already into it to develop new products. A core component of Lean Startup methodology is the build-measure-learn feedback loop. The first step is figuring out the problem that needs to be solved and then developing a minimum viable product (MVP) to offer the customer in order to begin the process of learning.
• Social networks: using Facebook, twitter, Instagram, blogs and other networking tools to promote your business, you can not only engage your audience and let them know what you are up to, but you can also get the their insights, depending on the number visits, likes, favorites and comments.
• Trained personnel: employees are one of the best source of information in regards to customer desires. They should be trained not only to assist the customer but also to
listen to them and communicate their needs to upper management.

Read more from Luciana’s blog here.

Pam Schodt is an ASQ Certified Quality Engineer and a member of the Raleigh, North Carolina, section of ASQ, where she volunteers on the Communication Committee. Her blog, Quality Improvements in Work and Life, includes posts about certification testing, book reviews, and lifestyle issues.

The customer is the driving force of organizations.

The best way to gather Voice of the Customer standards is through face-to-face meetings followed up by written and verified specifications. In my experience, the earlier the quality professional is involved in communication with the customer, the better. A relationship is built so an exchange of quality data can flow back and forth. This foundation of trust and professionalism creates a basis for quality improvement and superior products and services.

To read more feedback from Pam, click here.

Dr. Suresh Gettala works as a Director for ASQ South Asia. He is a seasoned quality expert with a unique blend of academic/research as well as industry experience, and also holds the coveted ASQ MBB (CMBB) certification.

Comprehending the requirements of customers continues to be a challenge irrespective of the type of industry that we are in. In many cases, even identifying all the customers is a delicate task.

How do we go about effectively managing customer requirements? The key is to hear from the “horse’s mouth” and not make any surmise about what the customer wants. How do we react to the captured customer voice would eventually determine how well we understand our customers.

When you are attempting to understand the requirements of customers, especially in B2B business, you need to understand that there are two types of requirements – one at the product/transaction level and one at the relationship level. Product/transaction level requirements are often addressed by having a robust requirements gathering and management process. In contrast, there is no such direct method to understand the requirements at the relationship level. At this level managing the customer wants is more of an art rather than science.

Read more feedback from Suresh by visiting his blog.

Luigi Sillé is the Quality Manager at Red Cross Blood Bank Foundation in Curaçao, an island in the Caribbean. He has been a senior ASQ member since 2014, and blogs at sharequality.wordpress.com.

The voice of the Customer (VOC), is a process used to get information about customer expectations, preferences and dislikes.

The Voice of the Customer helps you prioritize on those aspects that are valuable to your customers, and eliminate those that are not (you can absolutely lower your WASTE). The Voice of the Customer also helps in identifying GAPS in your service and or products. It provides early stage warnings, so management can pro-actively react on them. To stay competitive in this modern world, the Voice of the customer is the KEY.

Gathering data is important, but collecting it and not using the results is called: Waste. It’s waste of money, time, and effort.

So as soon as the data is received, quality professionals must analyze it, differentiate it and use it to improve, and /or adapt. Management in his turn must prioritize, and act to improve, thus delivering what the customer wants.

To read more feedback from Luigi, visit his blog.

Robert Mitchell retired from 3M last June, where he was known as “Quality Bob.” He has been an ASQ member for over three decades, and recently moved to Phoenix, where he runs a strategic quality leadership consulting business, QualityBob®Consulting. He blogs at roberthmitchell.blogspot.com/.

When attempting to define the “customer” it is important that everyone involved in the commercialization process agree on the target customer. One might assume that the customer is the end-user, consumer. But it is often not enough to just consider the end-user needs; the end-user might not be the purchasing decision-maker. For example, who decides what products get placed on store shelves, placed in catalogs, placed in the office supply room, stocked in the parts crib, or made available for on-line purchase… who is the “Gatekeeper”? In a B2B model, what are the Buyer’s needs? What influences the Gatekeeper and Buyer purchasing decision? How can your product, brand, or organization help that trade/channel customer achieve its strategic goals better than your competition can? In today’s global market where product can be purchased from virtually anywhere on the planet via the World Wide Web, what regulatory, statutory and/or Governmental needs must be satisfied? Of course, let us not forget the Internal customer. How effectively are internal customer & downstream process requirements understood and met by the previous process (internal supplier)? Where can waste and inventory be eliminated in the Value Stream?

Read more feedback from Bob, visit his blog.

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3 Responses to Roundtable: Voice of the Customer

  1. I have found most of my clients resist getting feedback from clients because they only think of annoying non-value added surveys as the source or they consider complaints as the only needed feedback. First I have to convince them they need to understand the direction their customer wants to go is critical. Than we talk about the difference between being re-active and -proactive. Finally we talk about interviews and focus groups. Most of the time they breathe a sigh of relief and create an effective VOC system.

  2. Terry McCann says:

    Lots of wisdom here, much of it common sense which, as we know, is not always all that common. None of these contributors talk about the internal customer. If your organization experiences misunderstanding and finger-pointing then you likely are not getting VOC for your internal customers.

  3. Pingback: Quality Round Up - May 2016 Edition - American Quality Management American Quality Management

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