“Deal with the world as it is, not how you’d like it to be” – Jack Welch, Past CEO and Chairman of GE
Often times in life we find ourselves making decisions with information that doesn’t reflect reality. Unfortunately, these instances often fall under our conscious radar and fall into a category called mental heuristics. Although these heuristics can cause little harm with small decisions, they can lead to the demise of businesses in certain instances. This is why it is necessary to have systems implemented in an organization. A formalized system helps remove error and increase the likelihood of a successful decision.
One system process that can be implemented in an organization and prevent this delusion is the Voice of the Customer (VOC). VOC is not a new term. It has been used for decades to describe the process of collecting and understanding customers’ requirements. Despite being a rather old methodology, it has gotten a new face in recent years due to the advancements in artificial intelligence. Over the course of this article [8 Minute Read], we will break down the process behind the Voice of the Customer and discuss the trends arising in the industry allowing for a more accurate VOC to be developed. One that is less influenced by the heuristics the human brain often suffers from.
Breaking Down the Voice of the Customer
“The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer.” – Peter Drucker
As the legendary management expert stated, a satisfied customer is the number one goal of an organization in the long term. A company may have deadlines in the short term, but if they want to thrive in the future, a long-term perspective is required. The VOC is a system that can allow a company to do exactly that. According to the experts at MIT, the VoC is “a detailed set of customer wants and needs which are organized into a hierarchical structure, and then prioritized in terms of relative importance and satisfaction with current alternatives.” It provides a detailed understanding of the customer’s requirements, a common language for the team going forward in the product development process, an essential for setting up the appropriate design specifications for the new product or service, and a highly useful springboard for product innovation.
- Customer Needs: This is a description of the customers’ opinions; what benefit they want to be fulfilled by the product or service. It’s important to note here that this is not a solution, it is a description of a need. Knowing customer needs is critical to both product development and marketing. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Customers rarely give a proper answer when asked, “What are your needs?”. It is much better to infer customer needs from experiential interviews or observation.
- A Hierarchical Structure: There are often many needs that come from the previous step. In this step, it is necessary to decide if it is a primary, secondary, and tertiary need. Primary needs are strategic needs: 2-10 needs that are used to set the strategic direction for marketing. Each primary need is elaborated into 3-10 secondary needs. Secondary needs indicate more specifically what the marketing manager must do to satisfy the corresponding primary (strategic) need. (Secondary needs are also known as tactical needs.) Tertiary needs, also known as operational or detailed needs, provide greater detail so that engineering, R&D, and, perhaps, the advertising agency, can develop a detailed set of product characteristics or advertising copy that satisfy the primary and secondary needs.
- Cost-Benefit Analysis: Some needs have higher priorities for customers than others. A marketing manager uses these priorities to make decisions that balance the cost of fulfilling a customer need with the desirability (to the customer) of fulfilling that need.
- Customer perceptions of performance: Customer perceptions are also derived from quantitative market research about how customers perceive the performance of products that compete in the market being studied. If no product yet exists, the perceptions indicate how customers now fulfil those needs. Knowledge of which products fulfil which needs best, how well those needs are fulfilled, and whether there are any gaps between the best product and “our” existing product provide further input into marketing decisions.
The New Face of the ‘Voice of the Customers’
With the recent advancement of artificial intelligence in the past years, understanding the customer has become a whole lot easier. This is because, through machine learning, we have been able to process the vast amounts of unstructured data companies have. In today’s attention economy it is often very hard to get our customers and potential customers’ attention but because of social media, and the internet, there is a vast amount of information our customers have already said about your product or company. These consumer preferences, problems, and complaints are now being used to a companies’ advantage to create effective customer journeys. This all comes from unstructured data sources such as:
- Social Media
- Survey Responses
- Call Center Notes
- Chat Bots
These multi-channel insights provide the collective Voice of the Customer helping teams to make informed business decisions and this is what we specialize in at Semeon.