- 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-Meeting Discovery Process
- One-on-One Call with Expert
- Meeting Summary Report
- Post-Meeting Engagement
Applying the Voice of the Customer to Product or Project Requirements
- Social media has become an important channel for voice-of-the-customer research.
Crowdsourcing tools and other social media are increasingly used to survey statistically significant groups of customers. These tools are very useful for perceiving trends and connections between groups of customers. Social media is also seen as a means of reducing the cost of surveying large numbers of respondents.
- Companies are also using VOC research early in the process to determine how to allocate R&D expenditures.
- Voice-of-the-customer research is useful not only for determining the characteristics of today’s product. Many companies are also using it to gather customer information that will help determine R&D investments. VOC research is used in this case as a tool for portfolio management. It provides data that allows managers to allocate their R&D investments long before they have selected specific projects that will make their way through the pipeline. “What marketplace do we want to go after? What customers are hot and which are not?” Voice-of-the-customer research provides ample data to help resolve these questions.
- Voice-of-the-customer is also being used at the back end of the development process.
- Some companies are conducting a miniature version of the complete VOC process after the product is complete in order to better understand what the marketing message needs to be in differing geographies. For example, marketing's message is likely to be somewhat different in Spain, Germany, the United States, and Asia. Using VOC at the back end helps firms send the right message to individual markets and segments.
- Companies are streamlining iterative development, eliminating at least pieces of their stages-and-gates process to make room for development based on better customer information.
Product developers are producing fast prototypes to garner early customer feedback. Then developers create another iteration that is placed in front of customers as well. This approach runs counter to the stages-and-gates system, which is a serial process. These fast, iterative prototypes are one aspect of agile product development. Each iteration gathers deep customer information.
- During the economic downturn companies have cut back and the first thing they cut is VOC work, which is devastating to long term productivity.
- When product launches fail it is easy to blame it on the economy. But when previously successful, innovative firms stumble, it may be for another reason. Voice-of-the-customer programs are cut because it is imagined to be a “nice to have” hedge against risk rather than an essential process that bolsters the top and bottom lines. If the goal is to create a stream of innovative products, then good customer research is a requirement not an optional program. Cutting your lines of communication to customers can do nothing to improve an already difficult situation.