Six Sigma DMAIC Process - Define Phase - Capturing Voice of Customer (VOC)

What is Voice of Customer?
Voice of Customer is the customer’s voice, expectations, preferences, comments, of a product or service in discussion. It is the statement made by the customer on a particular product or service.

Customer Identification:
Customer is the one who buys or uses your products/services and he/she is the one who receives the process output. We broadly classify customers into two categories:
  • Internal Customers: Internal Customers are the ones who are internal to the organization. They are Management, Employee(s) or Any Functional Department in your organization.
  • External Customers: External Customers are not a part of the organization. They are either the ones who use our product(s) or service(s) or have vested interest in the organization. For e.g. Clients, End-Customers, Shareholders, among others.
Customer Needs and Requirements:
Need is a desire or an expectation of a customer from a given product or service. Customers may have many stated needs which are often vague and generally are “wants” from a product/service.

For example Customer requires an Air-Conditioner for its use in his/her bed-room. The real need of the customer is cool temperature in the bedroom. Similarly, the real want from the Air-Conditioner is it has to be quite, cost-effective and maintenance free. When the customer states his/her requirements, we will often get to hear that the need is “Cool Temperature, Less Noise (quite), Cost Effective and Free of Maintenance”. However, “Cool Temperature” is the need and the rest are just wants. It is important for the project team to understand the stated needs of the customer and separate them from wants.

The main reason that we separate needs and wants are: Needs are important critical features and Wants are expectations of the product or service over and beyond the needs. If the product/service is not able to fulfill “Wants” of the customer, the customer may only be highly displeased / dissatisfied. However, if the product/service is not able to fulfill “Needs” of the customer, he/she will not use the product/service and there is a high likelihood that he/she will switch to competitors product/service. Organizations reputation may also be at stake if “Needs” are not met.

Requirement is an attribute of the product or service which fulfils the needs of a customer. Customer defines these requirements and are the “musts” of a product or service.

For example in the above example of an air-conditioner, customer’s requirement is “Cool Temperature” and the rest are “Good to Have” features. Customer will not buy the Air-Conditioner if all of “Good to Have” features are present but the “Requirement(s)” are not fulfilled. However, customer may buy the product/service if the “Requirement” is fulfilled and “Good to Have” features are present or not present.

Translating Voices to Needs:
Voice of Customer (VOC) methodology can be used to capture the customer needs – both current (stated needs) and latent (unstated needs). VOC methodology helps capture the needs of customer through stated verbatim comments (customer voices). It helps translate verbatim comments (customer voices) into customer needs to product/service output characteristics (customer requirements).

Distinct Categories of VOC:
At an organization level we broadly classify VOC into four distinct categories (AICP):
  • Voice of Associate: The feedback that we get from our Employees
  • Voice of Investor: The feedback that we get from our Management and Shareholders
  • Voice of Customer: The feedback that we get from our Clients and End-customers
  • Voice of Process: The feedback that we get from measuring our CTPs (Critical To Process) and CTQs (Critical To Quality)

Six Sigma - Voice of AICP (Associate, Customer, Investor and Process)

Voice of Customer (VOC) Methods:
  • Surveys: Surveys are a designed set of questionnaire which is sent out to potential or existing customers. Surveys are cost effective, however, have very low response rate.
  • Interviews: Interviews are individual meetings with potential or existing customers where a set of questions are asked and answers are discussed to understand customer voices. Interviews can tackle Complex Issues, however, requires Trained Resources.
  • Focus Group: A group of people are called together in one conference room and a discussion is held on specific topics that need to be addressed. These focus groups are excellent for identifying the CTQ (Critical to Quality), however, are difficult to generalize.
  • Suggestions: Client/Customer/Employee feedback is received and treated as suggestion to improve product or service. Suggestions provide good improvement opportunities, however, does not look at overall process.
  • Observations: During the course of the process, individuals can have observations and can provide feedback to the process which does act as a Voice of Customer.
Below is a sample of Voice of Customer that is translated into a Requirement:

Six Sigma - Translating Voice of Customer into Requirements

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