- 20 years of hands-on management of large engineering, manufacturing, and procurement organizations focusing on product/service development, especially in areas of collaborative design, metrics, supply chain management, and business strategy implementation
- Clients include Fortune 500 companies, major universities (Stanford, MIT, Carnegie-Mellon University), and government agencies in product development, supply chain management, and rapidly implementing enterprise-wide change
- All 7 Best Practices
- Pre-Call Discovery Process
- One-on-One Call with Expert
- Session Summary Report
- Post-Session Engagement
Applying the Voice of the Customer to Product or Project Requirements
- Products miss their targets for sales, margin or profit.
The cost of putting together a product must be less than the product price, which in turn must be less than the value that the customer places on owning the product. The customer must be willing to value your product more than saving their money. If product developers do not know what the customer values and how much they value it, then they do not know what features to create. They know neither the proper price point nor the target development costs necessary to turn a profit. If product developers hear the voice of the customer and learn what customers truly value, then they can both project future profits and develop the features that are more rather than less valuable.Apple, for instance, knew that customers did not value technology as much as ease of use. In many cases, customers place a high value on the services and ancillary offerings around the product more than they value the fungible product itself. Many companies miss their projections because they think technology is going to carry the day. But technology is only as valuable as the customer thinks it is.
- Too many "me-too" products are coming out of the pipeline.
- When product developers get too comfortable with their notions of what customers want, their products evolve in a predictable way. The result is that the products tend to look just like their competitors. These “me-too” products do not meet customer needs in a way that differentiates them from competitive offerings. The market competitors begin to do battle over price, which drives down margins. If the majority of a company’s product launches miss their sales and margin projections, that is an indicator that there are too many “me-too” products in the pipeline.
- Product development projects experience "scope creep."
- Product developers settle into a new project and begin to design to spec when in comes a colleague from sales telling them that the new product must have such-and-such a feature. The next day in comes someone from research who says that the project must incorporate a new technology. Sometimes it is senior managers who come in with bright ideas hatched on the golf course that change the scope even further. "Scope creep" is one of the biggest drivers of schedule and cost overruns. Scope creep happens because the team does not fully understand the problem they are trying to solve up front. As a result, the solution the team is offering does not have a strong foundation. When the team has a fact-based analysis behind its specification, they are armed with information when interlopers attempt to alter the scope.
- A newly launched product is missing a key feature; a redesign based on market feedback happens almost immediately post-launch.
- Market feedback should arrive before the product is launched and not after. This problem is a symptom of the failure to get the right customer feedback up front. If the team put features into the product that the customer doesn’t value, then it has over-designed. For example, for a time a battery manufacturer added built-in testers to AA and AAA batteries. The market research showed that this is something that customers wanted but not something that they needed. The testers were a technical success but a market failure because the developers did not understanding the difference between a customer want and a customer need. Many products are launched with features that the customer doesn’t value highly simply because the product developers do not understand the customer's problem in the first place.
- We keep asking the customer how to design our next product or service and call that the route to customer satisfaction.
- The customer is qualified to tell you how he or she does business and this is precisely what product developers need to learn. The customer is not as qualified to design our products as we are. You do not need to learn how the customer would develop your products because customers can see only what has been done in the past. Henry Ford said, “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted they would have said ‘a faster horse.’” Customers may request that a feature be changed but this does not convey what they actually need. If we understand the impact on customers of the feature in question, then we can develop something that meets their need better than they can imagine.
- Companies are unwilling to invest upfront to do voice-of-the-customer work because their organization does not have a robust process for it.
- Many stakeholders believe that performing VOC research is a sinkhole for money. They do not trust that the money allocated for this process will earn a return on the investment. What is required is a concrete, proven, robust process for voice-of-the-customer research. Such a process involves not just visiting customers or interviewing them but also analyzing the data effectively and incorporating the insights into new products.
- Products are developed with “points of differentiation” instead of "points of value."
- Just because your product looks different from the competition’s doesn’t mean that it is different in a way that customers care about. Instead of points of differentiation, think about points of value. Seek value rather than differentiation. Product developers discover what customers value by listening to them with care. When you are listening to customers, there is absolutely nothing about the exercise that is about you. What you are there to do is to understand the customers’ business. If you are going out to talk to customers, then you have already made the biggest mistake. You go out to listen to customers and their voices will reveal what they truly value as opposed to meaningless “differentiations” dreamed up by developers operating in a isolation.