Understanding the voice of your customers is vital in any business. If you can design your products and processes so that they provide your customers with what is important to them, then you’ll provide excellent customer service and ultimately make more profit. Failing to take the voice of the customer into account can contribute to poor results from Business Improvement initiatives, reduced profits and unhappy customers.

The problem is that all too often we think we know better than our customers or we ignore their pleas, which can come in the form of complaints or feedback. We let our marketing people or engineers or designers get carried away with what is important to them and the views of our customers get missed out.

So how can you ensure that you listen to the voice of your customer and then provide products, services and processes that delight them?

Identifying the Voice of the Customer

The first requirement is to generate a list of items what we call Critical to Quality (CTQ). We can then introduce performance measures to determine how well we are delivering against these CTQs and try to improve them by further developing our processes, people and offerings.

Customer delight was a phrase developed by Noriaki Kano in the 1990s. He identified three elements of customer satisfaction:

Kano and Voice of the Customer

But how do you use this information in your workplace? How do you take it to the next stage? And how can you delight your customer?

By following these 12 steps you will understand your current weakness, identify how you can improve, and make changes for the better.

1)    Identify who your customers are. It might sound simple but as with many things, it can be a lot more complicated. Make a list of all the different customer types you have not just the end user. These include internal customers and regulatory bodies.

2)    Determine what you want to know from them. Do you want to know what’s important in terms of your product or service, or would you prefer to identify where you are going wrong. Knowing the answer to this question helps shape the questions we ask.

Voice of the customer action three

4)    Determine how you will collect data on them and collect it. There are countless ways of collecting Voice of the Customer (VOC) data. You must determine how you will do this and how you will ensure that the data is robust, accurate and free from bias. Complaints are a great source of data if you collect it correctly. Surveys and feedback forms are often used but be careful we see many examples where the questions themselves introduce bias.

5)    Accurately summarise the data into core needs. Once you have your data you will have a lot of qualitative information in the customers’ language so you need to condense it to make it actionable without losing the meaning, intensity and requirements of the customer.

6)    Determine what the driver for each need is. You need to examine each the requirements from the customers and understand what the motivation for it is. So whether it’s fast service, cheaper products or more features we must identify the potential driver or drivers for each to understand why customers want it.

7)    Categorise each driver as either dissatisfier, satisfier or delighter. This step is vital if you really want to delight your customer. For each driver you then need to categorise them into either dissatisfiers (without them the customer will be very hacked off), satisfiers (what they make buying decisions on and the items they will compare against your competitors) and delighters (the things that wow them).

Voice of the customer 8

9)    Translate each driver into what is critical to our customer (CTQs). For example if the customer has a need to report a problem quickly then the driver is to talk to somebody quickly on the phone and the CTQ would be the phone being answered quickly.

10)    Put in place some KPIs to measure your performance against CTQs. To ensure we are committed those CTQs we need to introduce measures which are in line with them, so we continue to meet them and ensure everyone in the business understands their importance. So in our example above the KPI would be a target number of rings before a phone is answered.

11)    Summarise you current position vs VOC. If you have completed the first ten steps you’ll have an understanding of what is important to your customer, so it is a good idea to take stock of where you are, understand how you are currently performing against these requirements and what the data tells you as a whole.

Voice of the customer twelve

Taking Action

Unless you understand what is important to your customers and how you are performing then you are only getting lucky if you are delighting your customers. If you follow these simple steps you will discover a lot about your customers and your business. You will start to understand why you don’t sell as much as you wish and how well you listen to your customers.

It is not uncommon for companies to be very disheartened by the discoveries in this exercise. It is also common for us to discover that we currently don’t offer our customers anything which delights them. This is OK, as sometimes just giving them exactly what they wanted is the delighter.

Over the years this process has helped hundreds of companies to understand where they stand, what their issues are and it has led to increased sales. Give this 12 step plan a go and if you need any help then please get in touch by visiting our website or calling us on 0800 066 3749.