Understand the Voice Of the Customer (VOC)

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Defining Customer Requirements

Identifying The Customer

When gathering customer requirements and constructing a product or service, identifying the customer helps to guarantee that all relevant parties are taken into account. If the customer is an end user, for example, it is critical to understand their requirements and preferences in order to provide a product or service that satisfies their expectations. If the customer is a retailer, it is critical to understand their pricing, packaging, and shipping requirements in order to properly meet their needs.

Identifying the customer also helps in ensuring that the product or service satisfies the client’s quality and performance expectations. It is possible to build a product or service that meets or exceeds the customer’s expectations by understanding their wants and needs.

In some cases, there may be multiple clients with varying needs. A product or service, for example, may have both end users and retailers as consumers. In this instance, it is critical to identify all relevant customers in order to comprehend their wants and expectations and guarantee that they are considered during the DMAICprocess.

Overall, recognising the client is a critical initial step in understanding their wants and ensuring that a product or service properly meets their demands.


Types of Customers

A process’s customers can be both internal and external. Internal customers are stakeholders within an organisation who rely on a process’s output to complete their own job or achieve their own objectives. Individuals or organisations outside of the business who rely on the output of a process to suit their own requirements or expectations are referred to as external customers.

Within a corporation, internal customers can be departments, teams, or individual employees. If a marketing team relies on the output of a design process to develop marketing materials, the marketing team is called an internal customer of the design process.

External customers may include end users, retailers, or other organisations that rely on the output of a process to meet their own needs. For example, if a corporation manufactures a product that is sold to end users, the end users are called the production process’s external clients.

Voice of the Customer 

It is essential to recognize both internal and external customers in order to understand their wants and expectations and guarantee that they are considered while building and improving a process. It is feasible to establish a process that effectively fulfils the needs of all stakeholders by identifying all relevant customers.


Step 1 - Gathering The Voice Of the Customer Input

Gathering customer feedback is a vital step in knowing your consumers’ requirements and preferences. You can acquire useful insights into your products, services, and processes by actively seeking out client feedback. Surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews are all approaches for getting client feedback. In this post, we will cover the significance of getting customer feedback and several effective strategies for doing so.

Why gathering Customer Input is Important

Here are some of the reasons why obtaining customer feedback is critical:

It helps in customer comprehension: By receiving consumer feedback, you can gain a better understanding of your customers’ requirements, preferences, and expectations. This might assist you in better tailoring your products and services to match their needs.

It assists in the identification of opportunities for improvement: By actively seeking client input, you can uncover areas where your products, services, or procedures may fall short. This might assist you in identifying areas for improvement and implementing necessary adjustments.

It helps you to build customer loyalty: By showing your customers that you value their input and are willing to make changes based on their feedback, you can build customer loyalty. Customers are more likely to return to a company that values their feedback and considers their demands.



How to Gather Customer Input Effectively

There are various approaches you may use to efficiently acquire consumer feedback. Among the most common approaches are:

Surveys: Surveys are a quick and easy way to gather customer input. You can collect client feedback on a range of issues, such as product satisfaction, customer service, or areas for improvement, using online tools or paper questionnaires.

Focus groups: Focus groups are a more in-depth method of gathering client feedback. A focus group is a small, representative group of customers assembled to discuss a specific topic or product. Focus groups may be a powerful tool for gathering specific input and gaining a better knowledge of customer needs and preferences.

One-on-one interviews: One-on-one interviews are a more personalised technique to get customer feedback. Individual interviews with clients allow you to ask particular questions and obtain more detailed feedback.

Customer Complaints: Customer complaints can be a great source of the voice of the customer, providing valuable insights into areas where your products, services, or procedures may be lacking. You may uncover patterns and places for improvement and make necessary changes by actively listening to and responding to consumer complaints.

Customer data analysis: You can acquire insights into your customers’ wants and preferences by analysing customer data such as purchase history or website usage.

By adopting one or more of these approaches to collect consumer feedback, you can acquire useful insights that can help you improve your products, services, and procedures while also building customer loyalty.


Step 2 - Identifying Critial-to-Quality (CTQ) Characteristics

Critical to Quality (CTQ) features are those aspects of a product or service that are most significant to the consumer. CTQs are used in the context of Lean Six Sigma to identify important quality attributes that have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction.

CTQs are generally identified using tools like the Kano model or Quality Function Deployment (QFD). These techniques assist in identifying the most significant consumer wants and criteria that should be addressed in the design and development of a product or service.

After identifying the CTQs, the next step is to define target values or specifications for these qualities. Setting performance requirements or tolerances for the CTQs may be necessary to ensure that they are routinely satisfied.

In addition to establishing target values for CTQs, it is critical to monitor and measure their performance to ensure that they are continuously meeting the needs of the customer. This may entail gathering and evaluating CTQ data to discover trends or concerns that need to be addressed.

CTQs are an important part of Lean Six Sigma because they ensure that a product or service is created and developed with the consumer in mind. You may ensure that your product or service satisfies the needs of your consumers efficiently and consistently by defining and prioritising the most critical quality attributes.


Customer Analysis Tools

Kano Model

The Kano model is a voice of the customer analysis method that assists in identifying and prioritising the requirements and preferences of customers. Professor Noriaki Kano invented it in the 1980s, and it has since been widely utilised in product development and consumer satisfaction surveys.

The Kano model is founded on the premise that different sorts of consumer demands can be classified into three groups: required needs, expected needs, and desired needs.

The Kano model explaing and priortising the customer needs

Required needs (Must Be’s or Expected Factors) are those that are essential for customer satisfaction. These are the most crucial requirements that cannot be compromised. The customer will be unhappy if a product or service fails to meet these requirements.

For example, if a customer is planning a trip, they may demand a clean and pleasant hotel room, dependable transportation to and from the airport, and access to amenities such as a pool or fitness centre. If the vacation package does not suit these basic criteria, the consumer will be dissatisfied and may not book with that business again.

In order to achieve customer satisfaction, it is critical to define and prioritise required needs. If a product or service fails to meet these fundamental demands, the consumer will be unsatisfied and may refrain from purchasing from that company in the future. You may increase customer happiness and loyalty by focusing on addressing basic needs.

Expected needs (One Dimensional or Performance Factors) are those that customers usually expect but are not always required for fulfilment. These are fundamental needs that must be supplied, but if they are not, the customer will be neither satisfied nor unhappy.

For example, if a customer is buying a new television, they may anticipate a high-definition display, a good sound system, and a choice of connectivity possibilities. While these functions are necessary and should be expected in a modern television, if they are not present, the customer may be displeased. The more of these features included in the produce or serice usually increase the customer satisfaction. 

To achieve customer satisfaction, it is critical to meet expected needs. While these requirements are not always necessary for customer satisfaction, they are typically anticipated by customers and should be taken into account when building and marketing a product or service. You can increase customer happiness and loyalty by anticipating their requirements.

Desired (Delighters or Excitement factors) needs are those that, if supplied, would delight the customer but are not necessarily expected. These are “nice-to-have” features that can be used to set a product or service apart from the competition.

For example, if a customer is looking to buy a new smartphone, they may want a long-lasting battery, a high-quality camera, or a stylish design. While these features may not be necessary expected in a smartphone by the customer, they are “nice-to-haves” that might be used to differentiate the product from its competitors. If the smartphone fits all of the customer’s essential and expected needs, as well as these desired characteristics, the customer will be very happy with their purchase.

When building and promoting a product or service, it is important to meet intended needs. These attributes can be used to set your product or service apart from competitors and boost client satisfaction and loyalty. You can make your product or service more appealing to clients and stand out in the market by addressing desired needs.


Using the Kano Model

Once you have identified the customer needs, you can use the Kano model to classify each need as a required need, an expected need, or a desired need based on the criteria described above. Required needs are basic needs that must be met in order for the customer to be satisfied. These are the most important needs and are non-negotiable. 

Expected needs are needs that are expected by the customer, but are not necessarily required for satisfaction. These needs are important and must be met, but if they are not met, the customer will not be particularly satisfied or frustrated. Desired needs are needs that would delight the customer if they were met, but are not necessarily expected. These are “nice-to-have” features and can be used to differentiate a product or service from competitors.

By classifying the customer needs into these three categories, you can better understand the relative importance of each need and prioritize them accordingly. This is an important step in ensuring that you are meeting the needs of your customers effectively and improving customer satisfaction.


Affinity Diagrams

An affinity diagram is a valuable tool for collecting and classifying customer input so that patterns and trends can be identified. It is frequently used in the process of analysing and prioritising consumer demands, and it can be a useful tool for identifying similar themes and features in client feedback.

To begin creating an affinity diagram, write down each item of client feedback on a separate index card or sticky note. These specific bits of feedback could come from surveys, focus groups, one-on-one interviews, or consumer complaints.

Example of an affinity diagram with quality and cost

After you’ve written down all of the customer feedback, organise it into groups based on similar themes or qualities. This can be accomplished by searching for similarities in the feedback and grouping comparable items together. For example, you may aggregate feedback related to a specific product feature, customer service issue, or pricing concern.

As you organise the input, patterns and trends will emerge. These patterns can help you better understand your customers’ requirements and preferences, as well as highlight areas where your product or service can be improved.

Overall, the affinity diagram is a straightforward yet effective technique for organising and comprehending client input. By categorising client input, you can find patterns and trends that can help you better understand and address your consumers’ demands.


Quality Function Deployment (QFD)

Quality Function Deployment (QFD) is another methodology used to translate customer needs and requirements into specific design and engineering characteristics for a product or service. Its is not often methodology used at Lean Six Sigma Yellow belt level. However, it is useful to be aware of it and how it can be used when understanding the voice of the customer.It is a systematic process that helps to ensure that a product or service is designed and developed with the customer in mind.

QFD | Quality Function Deployment | Quality-One

Typically, the QFD process begins with determining the customer’s needs and requirements for a product or service. Customer feedback may be gathered through methods such as surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one interviews. Customer data, like as purchase history or website usage, may also be analysed to find patterns and trends.

Following the identification of client demands, the following stage is to transform those needs into precise design and engineering characteristics for the product or service. This is accomplished through the use of matrices and diagrams, which aid in mapping out the linkages between consumer wants and design attributes.

The QFD process also includes determining target values for design features and defining any necessary trade-offs. It also includes a constant evaluation and improvement process to guarantee that the product or service satisfies the customer’s changing needs.

Overall, Quality Function Deployment is an extremely effective strategy for ensuring that a product or service is conceived and produced with the client in mind. You may ensure that your product or service effectively satisfies the needs of your customers by carefully converting customer needs into particular design and engineering qualities.



Step 3 - Creating measurable CTQs

After identifying the Critical to Quality (CTQ) qualities, the next step is to develop target values or specifications for these attributes. This is a critical stage in ensuring that the CTQs are continuously satisfied and that the product or service meets the customer’s needs.

Setting performance standards or tolerances is one method for determining CTQ target values. Performance standards are values or ranges that specify how a CTQ should perform. For example, if a CTQ represents a product’s reliability, a performance criteria could be a particular number of failures per million units. Setting performance criteria helps to ensure that the CTQs are consistently met and may be used to assess the product or service’s performance.

The response time of a customer service hotline is an example of a measurable Critical to Quality (CTQ) feature. This CTQ could be determined by the average time it takes a client to reach a representative while calling the hotline.

Set a performance benchmark, such as a maximum reaction time of 60 seconds, to establish a goal value or specification for this CTQ. This performance criteria could be used to assess the customer service hotline’s performance and verify that it is continuously satisfying the needs of the customer.

To monitor and measure the operation of this CTQ, you may gather data on customer service hotline response times and analyse it to detect any trends or issues that need to be addressed. For example, if you discover that the average response time is consistently greater than 60 seconds, you may need to explore the cause of the delay and apply modifications to lower the response time.

Overall, a customer service hotline’s response time is a measurable CTQ that can be used to ensure that the customer service is continuously meeting the needs of the client and identifying chances for improvement. Setting a performance criteria and collecting data on the CTQ allows you to monitor and measure the customer service hotline’s performance and ensure that it is continually meeting the needs of the customer.

VOC to CTQ Example

For example, a customer orders a pizza from a restaurant and complains that it took too long. This suggests that the underlying problem is that the consumer waited far too long for their food. We might collect data or benchmark comparable restaurants with high levels of service to determine what a normal amount of time to wait for a food order is.

As a result, in this case, a measurable Critical to Quality (CTQ) attribute could be that consumers must receive their meal orders within 15 minutes of placing the order. This is now a measurable Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that can be used to determine whether the customer received their order within the time frame specified. Any order that takes more than 15 minutes to complete would be considered unsatisfactory. We can ensure that the restaurant is consistently satisfying the demands of the client and identifying possibilities for improvement by establishing this performance standard and continuously monitoring and measuring the CTQ’s performance.



To summarise, knowing the customer’s voice is a critical step for discovering and understanding the customer’s needs in relation to a product, process, or service. To ensure that the project team is aware of the client requirements that must be met throughout improvement efforts, these needs should be recognised, understood, prioritised, and converted into measurable Critical to Quality (CTQ) elements. This ensures that the enhancement project has no negative influence on the consumer.


What's Next?

So far in the DMAIC Define phase, we’ve covered how to build a project charter, define the project’s problem and goal, and define the process and its variables using a SIPOC as well as creating measurable KPIs for our customer specifications. To conclude the Define phase, we will cover stakeholders, communication and project management technologies that will help the project succeed in the next topic.

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