- Voice of the customer
Voice of the customer (VOC) is a term used in business and Information Technology (through ITIL, for example) to describe the in-depth process of capturing a customer's expectations, preferences and aversions. Specifically, the Voice of the Customer is a market research technique that produces a detailed set of customer wants and needs, organized into a hierarchical structure, and then prioritized in terms of relative importance and satisfaction with current alternatives. Voice of the Customer studies typically consist of both qualitative and quantitative research steps. They are generally conducted at the start of any new product, process, or service design initiative in order to better understand the customer’s wants and needs, and as the key input for new product definition, Quality Function Deployment (QFD), and the setting of detailed design specifications.
Much has been written about this process, and there are many possible ways to gather the information – focus groups, individual interviews, contextual inquiry, ethnographic techniques, etc. But all involve a series of structured in-depth interviews, which focus on the customers’ experiences with current products or alternatives within the category under consideration. Needs statements are then extracted, organized into a more usable hierarchy, and then prioritized by the customers.
It is critical that the product development core team own and are highly involved in this process. They must be the ones who take the lead in defining the topic, designing the sample (i.e. the types of customers to include), generating the questions for the discussion guide, either conducting or observing and analyzing the interviews, and extracting and processing the needs statements.
Voice of the Customer Initiatives
- A detailed understanding of the customer’s requirements
- A common language for the team going forward
- Key input for the setting of appropriate design specifications for the new product or service
- A highly useful springboard for product innovation.
Qualities of Desirable Voice of Customer Metrics
Credibility: How widely accepted is the measure? Does it have a good track record of results? Is it based on a scientifically and academically rigorous methodology? Will management trust it? Is there proof that it is tied to financial results?
Reliability: Is it a consistent standard that can be applied across the customer lifecycle and multiple channels?
Precision: Is it specific enough to provide insight? Does it use multiple related questions to deliver greater accuracy and insight?
Accuracy: Is the measurement right? Is it representative of the entire customer base, or just an outspoken minority? Do the questions capture self-reported importance or can they derive importance based on what customers say? Does it have an acceptable margin of error and realistic sample sizes?
Actionability: Does it provide any insight into what can be done to encourage customers to be loyal and to purchase? Does it prioritize improvements according to biggest impacts?
Ability to Predict: Can it project the future behaviors of the customer based on their satisfaction?
- ^ Ernan Roman, ERDM.com (2010): Voice of Customer (VOC) Relationship Research
- ^ Morrison, Scott (2008-01-28). "So Many, Many Words". The Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120129801401017897.html. Retrieved 2010-04-14: Attensity Text Analytics Solution for Voice of the Customer Analytics.
Bradley N (2007) Marketing Research. Tools and Techniques. Oxford University Press, Oxford
Chicago Strategy Associates, 'WHY HAVE STRATEGIC CONVERSATIONS WITH CUSTOMERS?' 
Burchill, Gary and Brodie, Christina Hepner, (1997). Voices into Choices. Madison, WI: Joiner Publications. (A complete “how-to” guide of the process developed at the Center for Quality Management in the early 1990’s.)
Griffin, Abbie and Hauser, John, (1993). The Voice of the Customer. Marketing Science, 12(1): 1-27 (Winter). (The first truly empirical study of Voice of the Customer, the goal of which was to identify best practices.)
Katz, Gerald, (2001). The “One Right Way” to Gather the Voice of the Customer. PDMA Visions, 25(2) (October) (Examines all of the various trade-offs in how to go about gathering Voice of the Customer information, with the conclusion that there is no “one right way”.)
Katz, Gerald M., (2004). The Voice of the Customer. The PDMA Toolbook 2 for New Product Development, John Wiley & Sons. (A complete step-by-step explanation of how to gather a complete and rigorous Voice of the Customer.)
McQuarrie, Edward F., (1998). Customer Visits. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. (A comprehensive description of this most common way of gathering customer wants and needs.)
Ulwick, Anthony, (2002). Turn Customer Input into Innovation. Harvard Business Review, 80(1) (January). (A paper that describes the Voice of the Customer process in more managerial language, rather than product developer or market researcher language).
Anderson, Duff, (2007). Turn up the silence, selected articles on 'Voice of the Customer' research challenges. 
Freed, Larry, (2008). Freed Your Mind, selected articles on successful application of 'Voice of Customer' metrics. 
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