Voice of Customer (VOC) is the foundation for all Six Sigma improvement projects. We know that Six Sigma methodology is all about reducing variability and seeing that whatever products or service you delivered should meet the customer requirements.
Here the focus is customers. Because the customer is the one who defines the quality and value of particular products or services, also provides ideas for improvements. Six Sigma improvement projects achieve the best outcome only by properly understanding the voice of the customer (VOC) like their need, requirements, and wants.
So, Six Sigma teams always start by understanding the voice of customers and finding opportunities for improvements. In this article, we are going to understand what is the voice of the customer in six sigma? types of customers, different VOC methods in detail.
That means, in the end, you will get in-depth clarity on how to collect VOC for your Six Sigma projects. Let’s begin…
What is VOC in Six Sigma?
The Voice of the Customer (VOC) is a process used to capture the requirements/feedback from the customers whether it is internal or external, in order to provide the customers with the best in class service/product quality.
This process is all about being proactive and constantly innovative to capture the changing requirements of the customers with time and market trends. It is actually the customer’s comment on a specific product or service, after using it what they think about that product or service.
Or you can say it is the customer expectations, needs, and wants from the specific products or service. Satisfaction of these voices of customers should drive the organization and any improvement efforts at the organization. It’s up to organizations to use this customer data effectively.
Before collecting the voice of customers (VOC) it is important that you need to understand the two important types of customers. Because the customer is the reason we go into the business and lead the marketplace. The customer is the driver of quality and expectations.
- Internal customers – Anyone in the company who is affected by the product or service as it is being generated. The customers who are internal to the organizations like Upper management, Employees, Staff, and any functional department in the organization.
- Internal customers are ignored sometimes in pursuit of producing goods and services. Organizations should promote ways to bring employees across multiple departments together to solve problems.
- Management practices affect employee satisfaction and this, in turn, influences customer satisfaction. Therefore, management efforts and appreciation for the internal customer can result in significant strides toward customer satisfaction.
- External customers – External customers are the most important part of any organization. The customers who are not part of organizations but have an interest in the organization. Like End customers, Clients, Stakeholders, and Partners.
- Understanding who they are and their expectations help us to best develop products/services that they will want to buy. All the businesses compete for external customers so it is important to be prepared to adjust the strategy as the market’s needs change.
During the Six Sigma project, we collect customer data (VOC) in order to understand customers’ needs and actual requirements from the product/service. Improvement efforts might fail because of improper understanding of customer needs and requirements.
Need is a desire or an expectation of a customer from a given product or service. Needs are important critical features and wants are expectations of the product or service which is beyond the needs.
The requirement is a specific feature of a product or service which fulfills the need of a customer. These are customer-defined and must be fulfilled by the company. So it is important that the project team should understand the needs of customers and separate them from wants.
Let’s understand these three terms with one example of Net connection at home –
For example – A customer requires a net connection in his house (Work from home purpose). The service provider installed the net connection, which provides the constant network with good downloading/uploading speed. The customer purchased the best net pack which is going to provide 50MB/sec speed.
In this example, the Customer’s need is a Good net connection that provides constant speed and this need is fulfilled by the service provider by giving them a plan of a 50MB/sec speed Net pack. So customer requirement is 50 MB/sec net speed. Customer wants, in this case, is 50 MB/sec net speed should be available throughout the day.
Understanding and fulfilling customer needs and requirements are important to make customers happy and improve the company’s reputation in the customer’s eyes. Customers purchase the product/service even if the ‘want’ features are not there but features that fulfill the needs and requirements must be there.
Read More – What is Six Sigma?
Read More – What is DMAIC methodology?
VOC data collection methods –
There are a number of ways an organization or Six Sigma project team can capture the Voice of the Customer(VOC). Generally, there are two sources from which the VOC data is collected for Six Sigma projects i.e. reactive and proactive.
The reactive source includes things like customer complaints, feedback, service calls, and warranty claims. Proactive sources include these different VOC methods used during the Six Sigma project. Let’s understand all those one by one.
1. Surveys –
Surveys are very common questionnaires that gather data using a consistent set of standardized questions. They are cost-effective but have a low response rate.
Surveys are written sets of questions designed to collect verbal data. Asking questions is widely accepted as a cost-efficient way, of gathering information about past behavior and experiences, private actions and motives, beliefs, values, and attitudes.
That means from surveys, we can collect VOC data that can’t be measured directly. This verbal data helps the project team understand what customers want. Surveys will differ depending on whether they will be administered through telephone, mail, or electronic means.
Be careful while using each of these media because a good survey may be time-consuming to construct, but a bad survey will only provide misleading data. Surveys are most appropriate with broad audiences.
Remember the following points while creating powerful surveys –
- Keep the survey short and simple.
- Start with an interesting question.
- Write questions that are short, simple, and clear.
- Use close-ended questions rather than open-ended ones.
- Phrase sensitive questions carefully.
- Options should be mutually exclusive and exhaustive.
- Have a proper introduction script and ask for personal information at the end.
2. Focus groups –
Focus groups are one of the most powerful methods for gathering customer information in today’s marketplace. It is a V.O.C. data collection tool in which a small group of people 8 to 10 qualified customers, stakeholders, and subject matter experts engage in a roundtable discussion about their expectations from the process to be improved.
The focus group discussion is typically directed by a moderator who guides the discussion in order to obtain the group’s opinions about or reactions to specific products/services or process issues. This helps the project team in staying close to customers and their ever-changing attitudes, habits, product usage, and service expectations.
The key factor in determining the success of focus groups is the composition of the group in terms of the participants’ age, gender, and product usage. Focus group participants are generally selected on the basis of their use, knowledge, attitudes, or feelings about the products, services, process.
In selecting participants, the objective is to find individuals who can knowledgeably discuss the topics at hand and provide quality output that meets the specified objectives set by the Six Sigma project team.
3. Interview –
An interview is a formal or informal approach to discover information from potential customers and stakeholders by talking to them directly. It is typically performed by asking prepared and spontaneous questions and recording the responses.
Interviews are often conducted “one-on-one,” but may involve multiple interviewers and/or multiple interviewees. Interviewing experienced project participants, stakeholders, and subject matter experts can aid in identifying and defining the features and functions of the desired project deliverables.
The method is relatively simple. Basically, it consists of identifying appropriate project participants and then methodically questioning them about the features and functions of the desired deliverables as related to the project (for 30 to 60 min).
The technique can be used with individuals on a one-to-one basis or with groups of experts. When conducted properly, interviews provide very reliable qualitative information. With this method, the project team can tackle complex process/product issues.
4. Facilitated workshops –
These workshops are focused sessions that bring key cross-functional customers and stakeholders together to define requirements. Workshops are considered a primary technique for quickly defining the cross-functional requirements of the customers.
Because of their interactive group nature, well-facilitated sessions can build trust, foster relationships and consensus, and improve communication among the participants. Also, help in building relationships with customers. Another benefit of this technique is that issues can be discovered, and resolved more quickly than in individual sessions.
An example of this method is Quality function deployment in the manufacturing industry. QFD tool helps determine the critical characteristics for new product development or process design (during the DMADV project).
Read More – What is Quality function deployment(QFD)?
5. Observation –
One would think that observation would be the most natural and the best way to gather V.O.C. data on a first-hand basis because it provides real-time and contextual data.
It is particularly useful for the detailed processes when customers who use the outcome of such a process find it difficult to articulate their requirements. That’s where this method is useful to uncover the hidden requirements.
Watching customers use an existing product, reacting to an existing service, or performing a task for which the product or service is intended can reveal important details about the customer’s needs.
Observation may be completely passive, without any interaction with the customer, or may involve working side by side with a customer, allowing members of the process improvement or Six Sigma project to develop first-hand experience using the product or service.
6. Customer complaints –
Complaint systems are typically very reactionary but do help the project team identify potential opportunities for improvements. Complaints are also considered as suggestions for improvements. Examples like customer ratings/reviews, feedback forms, discussion forums, etc.
7. Market research –
Market research is geared more toward long-term, continuous improvement and competitive advantage by seeking out and exploiting vulnerabilities within products across the marketplace. It is also a useful method for capturing VOC during Six Sigma projects when the focus is a long-term improvement.
These are the top 7 methods for capturing the voice of the customer for improvement projects. The project team selects any of these methods depending upon the two factors i.e. cost of execution and time required to execute the particular method.
The team focuses on the fact that VOC data must be clearly defined, measurable and actionable because further improvement decisions are totally based on this data. So, VOC data is critical to collect before, after, and during Six Sigma projects.
The information gathered from these VOC methods during the Six Sigma project helps the project team identify customer requirements as well as opportunities for improvements and spot upcoming market trends.
What happens after capturing VOC data?
After capturing VOC data during the Six Sigma project, the project team focuses on converting customer needs (VOC data) into very specific, measurable, and actionable performance requirements.
See, whatever VOC data the project team gets is difficult to measure directly so it is necessary for the team to break down what is meant by the customer into identifiable and measurable terms.
For that team use tool called Critical to quality or CTQ tree, the main purpose of this tool is to translate customer needs into quantified requirements for the product or services. CTQ tree helps to distinguish between customer needs vs customer requirements.
By properly understanding measurable customer requirements project team takes further improvement decisions easily. All this happens during the Define phase of the DMAIC project. We will talk about the CTQ tree in detail in the next article.
After translating the VOC data into measurable requirements, the project team goes for the analysis of data and understands the real problem of the customer so that they can take action on the improvement of the existing product or processes.
This should be the case during the DMAIC project means when a team is working on improving existing products or processes. When it is DMADV project means new product/process development, that time project team prefer to use Kano model for the analysis of customer data.
Kano model is a powerful tool that prioritizes customer requirements into 3 categories like Basic requirements, Performance requirements, and Attractive requirements to get a clear picture of which requirements can increase customer satisfaction.
(Please check out the below article on the Kano model to get a clear idea of how this tool works.)
The most important purpose of capturing VOC (Voice of Customer) in the Six Sigma project is to understand the actual requirements of the customers, what they expect from the product/service that the company offers to them which satisfies their needs.
All types of process improvement work or new product/process development work will start by properly understanding the customer requirements. Because this VOC data helps the Six Sigma project team in identifying improvement opportunities as well as new product development opportunities.
Throughout this article, we discussed the concept of VOC(voice of Customer) in the Six Sigma project along with the different methods to capture VOC data. I hope you got the clarity on how important it is to capture VOC data during/before/after improvement projects.
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