Voice of the Customer (VOC)

The perfect case scenario would be to have your ideal customer brainstorming and evaluating ideas with your team about what the perfect product would be in terms of benefits and features for the customers. In some cases this is feasible. You can talk to your ideal clients and gather their input regarding what they value and what they actually need. On the other hand, there are situations where this approach is not feasible. For example, companies which sell products to consumers need a different approach to incorporate the customer input.

The voice of the customer is a term used in product development and marketing research and analysis which represents the process of gathering customer feedback on product preferences. There are various ways to get the voice of the customer depending on the industry, target market and the product or service.

The process includes the tactics and strategies used in gathering customer feedback. Various instruments for capturing customer information can be used such as qualitative and quantitative market research methods. The first step is gathering the required information and the second step is to analyze and structure the information into an actionable input for marketing and product development. The tools for gathering customer information include customer surveys, focus groups and interviews. In B2B marketing customer visits and learning more about the customer business is incredibly important information and might be the best way to get the information for any suppliers and vendors developing new offerings or improving their existing solutions.

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Voice of the customer is not a technique used only for new product development but it should be used for improving existing products and services, improving existing and developing new marketing approaches, improving customer service, developing better customer support and it should be used in every case where understanding customer needs is important.

In addition, quality management initiatives and six sigma programs should be based on the voice of the customer. For example the QFD (quality function deployment) is a structured and organized technique for deploying the customer needs into the quality management and quality control systems to make sure the customer benefits, features and defined levels of quality are continuously met. QFD helps organizations translate the customer needs into specific company requirements which are incorporated into the business processes and systems.

The VOC analysis is a methodology used by product managers, quality managers and marketing managers depending on the organizational structure of the company. Generally organizations with a large portfolio of products and services are organized by having product managers which are in charge of managing the entire product lifecycle from development to sales and customer service. In other companies products are managed by R&D and marketing in the development stage. Regardless of the company structure, the VOC should be incorporated into the product development and marketing initiatives as a crucial component for the success of the product.

Today, with social media the communication and engagement with customer and prospects have been changed dramatically. This opens new effective ways and opportunities for the companies. Social media can be used to gather important information, test assumptions, engage your target market, get direct input, etc. The article Marketing Research with Social Media goes into more details about this topic.

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