The voice of the customer is central to many process improvement methodologies. Both the DMAIC and DMADV Six Sigma methodologies begin with listening to the voice of the customer and defining their requirements and demands.
Putting the customer’s needs first, is, of course, nothing new. It wasn’t revolutionary in 1986 when American engineer Bill Smith first developed Six Sigma while working at Motorola. And yet, the importance of effectively listening to the voice of the customer continues to be pressed upon in business courses and emerging methodologies. That’s no surprise when you consider how your customers are your primary source of revenue and income.
What has changed are the resources available to source and gather information about your customers’ needs, expectations, and experiences of your products.
We’ll look at different methods of collecting data on voice of customer, and then look at how VOC is applied to Six Sigma (and by extension, Lean Six Sigma).
Voice of Customer Sources and Data Collection
Customer surveys are a great way to directly ask your customers about their experience with your product or brand. Product feedback surveys are easy to distribute over via, for example, Typeform or SurveyMonkey. These two platforms automatically aggregate your quantitative data for quick and easy reporting.
Use open-ended questions to get more detailed insights. This data is rich in useful and actionable information but is notoriously more challenging to analyse.
Thankfully, advanced text analysis technologies make it far easier to analyse qualitative data at scale. The Symanto Insights Platform makes sense of unstructured data and enables you to navigate qualitative data by topic and subtopic. To make things even easier, the Symanto Insights Platform is already connected to Typeform and SurveyMonkey so that you can directly feed your survey data into the platform.
Customer feedback interviews are more resource-intensive than surveys, but they come with the advantage that you can let your customers direct the conversation and openly share their thoughts without being led by a series of questions.
A great interviewer will be able to extract useful responses from their interviewees and go off-script if necessary to gain original insights.
3. Review sites
Review sites are full of rich, qualitative data precisely with the kind of information you need to build upon your strategies and improve operations. The added advantage is that these reviews are written organically, removing the likelihood of bias that can occur in surveys and interviews.
The Symanto Insights Platform is also connected with major review sites such as TripAdvisor, TrustPilot, Yelp, Glassdoor and Google, and eCommerce sites with review data such as AliExpress, Amazon, Booking.com, and many more.
4. Social media
Another major source of organic qualitative data is social media. Source conversations about your brand and your products on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Depending on the size of your business, this can produce thousands of ready-to-analyse data points without the need to send out emails or conduct interviews.
The Symanto Insights Platform is capable of analysing vast amounts of social media entries within a matter of minutes.
5. Customer service emails and phone transcripts
Customer service emails and phone transcripts are another pre-existing source of customer feedback. Don’t forget, you can also leverage your customer sales reps – ask them about the most commonly occurring, or most insightful conversations they’ve had with your customers. After all, they are your team members with the most direct experience of the voice of your customers.
The Symanto Insights Platform can analyse any unstructured text data available. Simply input any Excel or CSV file and select which column you’d like to analyse.
6. Direct observations
The term voice of customer heavily implies there’s something to listen to, but there’s another way to discover what your customers need without the use of words at all. Direct observation enables you to implicitly intuit the needs of your customer.
In one well-documented example, Hewlett Packard observed surgeons in the operating theatre. The surgeons used a camera and television screen to see what they were doing while operating inside their patient’s body. As the surgeon’s assistants and nurses moved around the room there were several moments when the surgeon’s view of the screen was obstructed. The surgeon never complained or spoke about the obstruction, but this observation cause Hewlett-Packard to set about designing a lightweight helmet to suspend a screen in front of the surgeon’s eyes.
Applying Voice of Customer to Six Sigma
The principal purpose of VOC research is to enable you to align your offerings more closely with the needs of your customers.
Product development – Find out how well your existing products meet your customer’s requirements and make necessary adjustments. You can also use your findings to explore new opportunities to expand your range, and design new products or services specifically for your customers’ needs.
Ongoing process improvement – The DMAIC and DMADV Six Sigma methodologies are cyclical, meaning that there are constant opportunities to refine and enhance your processes and operations.
It’s the customer that defines the value and quality of your products, and their requirements are continually evolving and shapeshifting. Six Sigma stresses the importance of continually reviewing the voice of your customers, and apply your findings to every aspect of your business operations to keep your business relevant, valuable and of high quality.