Voice of the customer (VOC)

Successful lean six sigma initiatives are always customer driven over time. Customers could be both internal and external. Internal customers are important to identify and understand if you want to optimize your processes with a minimum of non-value added activities.

When developing new products and services, VOC mean any stakeholder that has an impact on the purchase decision. It could mean besides of end-users: retailers, specifiers, wholesalers, service & maintenance providers as examples.

VOC in Design for Lean Six Sigma (DfSS)

While developing new products and services VOC could make the whole difference between failure and success. One failed new product launch could mean that the company is at risk. On the other hand a “killer product” in the market could lift the whole organization to new performance levels in terms of growth and profitability.

In DfSS VOC is an in-depth process of capturing customers’ expectations, preferences and aversions. It is a disciplined and structured process with the objective of minimizing the risk of developing and launching products and services that is not attractive to the targeted customer segment. The process includes both qualitative and quantitative tools for capturing expectations. VOC produces a detailed set of customer wants and needs organized in a hierarchical structure.

VOC start with structured in-depth interviews among customers. Customers could be existing customers, lost customers, competitors’ customers or any other stakeholder that could influence the purchase decision. This could practically mean making interviews with hundreds of customers and observing a large number of users of your or similar products in order to capture needs and understanding the context and environments how your products are used.

VOC in Process improvement

VOC in process improvement, often referred as DMAIC, often requires less information compared to new product development. We know the process and often have access to historical data. But it is still not less important to really understand requirements on our existing process. Some requirements are directly stated by customers, others are expectations from downstream processes. Surprisingly many process improvement projects are generated just due to that customers’ expectations are unknown or misunderstood.

What we need to understand can be summarized in Rudyard Kipling’s verse “Six Serving men”:

“I knew six honest serving men, they taught me all I knew, their names are what and why and when, and where and how and who”

More information

If you are interested in a stand alone, customized VOC training, please contact Gabriella Hålberg at ghalberg@sbtimail.com