Voice of Customer (VOC)

The Voice of Customer is not a tool that is used in Six Sigma process. It is the underlying philosophy of the Six Sigma process which makes it ensures that the entire process improvement exercise is based on the need of the stakeholder group that matter most i.e. the customer.

The Voice of Customer is closely related to the Kano Analysis which has been explained in another article. However, the VOC is broader in scope as compared to the Kano analysis. Here is a brief explanation of the VOC which by necessity needs to be conducted at the beginning of any Six Sigma project to make it a success.

Voice of Customer can be understood as a n exercise that acts as an interface between marketing and operations. The methods stated below are generally followed by the marketing department. However, in Six Sigma methodology it is important that operations department be a part of this system. This is because the next step after understanding the Voice of Customer is to use Quality Function Deployment and convert the Voice Of Customer into the Voice Of Engineer. This helps build customer satisfaction in the basic way that an organization functions.

Researching the Needs

There are many alternative ways that can be used to understand the needs of a customer. These methods can be used in isolation or they can be used in combination to verify the needs that have been collected through various methods. Some of the common methods used are as follows:

Lead Users: Lead users are advanced users of the product. They use the products in ways other than its intended usage. It is for this reason that these users become an important source of information for a company. Apple Computers is famous for understanding the needs of its lead users are creating innovative products.

Focus Group: Focus group research relies on exclusive interviews of a few customers as opposed to getting questionnaires filled from many customers. The interviews are largely unstructured. Customers are requested to state their opinions about the product/service they use. The decision is then moderated by a moderator to ensure that it does not go off topic. Domino’s Pizza conducted the focus group research to understand that users thought its Pizza tasted like cardboard. They then introduced different crusts to meet the need of different customers.

Sample Survey: This is the most common method used to gather information from the customers. They are asked to fill a questionnaire. Standard structured questions are asked and opinions are noted down. These opinions are then used to draw inferences using statistical methods. The problem with this approach is that it is highly structured. Customers have needs which they consider obvious and are therefore unspoken. This method does not record such data.

Warranty Data/Customer Returns/Feedback: Another method to understand the Voice of Customers is to look at data where they express their dissatisfaction. Warranty data displays the features of a product that are not working. Customer returns also show the reason for dissatisfaction. Negative feedback given to customer service personnel also acts as an important source of information.


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