Rather than a disembodied voice reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz, the voice of the customer, or VOC, is a data gathering technique used in marketing and product design. The prime example you’ll have no doubt seen are customer satisfaction survey questions and polls… but this is just one example.
The point of the VOC process is to use data, surveys and other analysis tools (such as small-sized business CRM software utilities) to pinpoint precise customer desires, needs and expectations regarding a process, service or product.
In this post I’ll show you how voice of the customer analysis is effectively used by project managers, quality teams and software designers.
Note that I have written previously about using online customer service software which is often used with great results for tracking, indexing and analyzing customer feedback. These are separate tools so instead I’ll focus here on the specific VOC analysis.
Key Techniques Used in Voice of Customer Analysis
The difficulty in using VOC data to drive process or design decisions is translating customer opinion into analytical data. A common technique in VOC analysis is the customer survey and forms a key component of a customer-driven marketing & advertising strategy. A well-designed survey with enough participants provides numerical data that voice of the customer software can present through graphical representation.
Analysts can determine if geographic location or other demographics contribute to customer opinion. They can also determine whether strong customer preferences are present in certain areas or if the general population of clients wants or needs a product or service.
VOC analysis can also be completed using email communication between the company and customers, customer loyalty data, customer complaints and the interaction of customers on social media outlets. The problem with these data points is they may not meet requirements for appropriate statistical sampling.
Note also that a proper sample size in a survey allows analysts to take conclusions from the survey and apply it to the entire population of customers. The same may not be true for other methods.
Voice of the Customer Template Basics: A Key Tool for Analysis
To alleviate difficulties with poor sampling, leading questions and inadequate data collection, many consulting firms offer a voice of the customer template for businesses. Almost any Six Sigma or Project Management training course also provides students with such templates (you’ll find a bunch of these available for free online – though I would recommend you customize these for your own specific industry and business). A good VOC template can mean the difference between driving marketing based on valid conclusions and hit-and-miss strategies based on false assumptions.
VOC templates usually include a checklist for the project manager or designer and a general VOC question sheet for customers. The checklist may assist the business is creating more specific VOC questions for their customers. The point here is that VOC templates might lead project managers to gather existing company data on previous surveys, returned orders or customer complaints.
They might also review customer phone calls to listen to complaints or service problems, sit with staff members as they handle work, conduct focus groups and launch surveys. A complete VOC template covers all areas of data collection and assists project leaders in developing a data-backed VOC.
The major outcome from this research should be a list of proposed actions/next steps/changes which should be considered for implementation. You may already have strategies to retain customers in place which can feed off of the various research findings. For example, if the research highlights customer dissatisfaction with the range of products or availability (outlets) then you can start looking at what sort of varying production techniques or supply alterations need to be made to facilitate what’s your customers are actually telling you they want.
How Should You Phrase Voice of the Customer Questions to Gain Valuable Insights?
Voice of the customer questions on surveys can be phrased in a myriad of ways, depending on the purpose and size of the survey. Open-ended questions that allow for a narrative answer usually supply the best information when a customer is willing to respond. An example of such a question is “If you could change anything about product A, what would it be?”
For large data collection efforts, open-ended questions are rarely feasible. In these cases, the Likert scale is one of the most common survey tools. The Likert scale presents the customer with an opportunity to answer questions on a five-point rating.
For example, the survey may ask customers to respond to a list of statements by choosing completely agree, somewhat agree, neither agree nor disagree, somewhat disagree or completely disagree. A possible statement could be, “The user console for product A is easy to operate.” A statistical analysis of the survey would tell designers if there is a potential problem with the user console.
The Big Proviso When Using VOC: It is important to remember that voice of the customer tools are just one set of resources in the box of the design or project management team. Although the customer is usually right, some lines cannot be crossed. If the VOC analysis shows customers want lower cost, but the product is already priced at the bottom line, the VOC data is overturned by basic profit and loss economics. Good project teams & managers know when to act on VOC data and when to use other information.