VoCAl: Supporting the Customer Driven Organization

Posted on Dec 28 in Featured, Issues in Customer Research, VoC News & Insights by

Interested in customer research that actually makes a difference? Voice of the Customer (VoC)  is a research methodology designed to support customer driven change — where hard evidence is used to drive improvement. 

Traditional customer research, based on polling methods, support  sales strategies that push or force feed products and services to customers. That’s why polling is used so frequently in political contests and advertising research to spin messages that are pushed onto the public.

A customer driven organization needs something different – an honest assessment of the strength and weaknesses in your customer relationship, including product, service or program performance. These needs can only be met through Voice of the Customer.

VOC  provides information that drives improvement to product or service design. Improvements that yield products and services customers want and demand – that are pulled by the customer rather than pushed by the company.

Research for the Real World

Traditional customer research (of which polling is an example) uses statistical significance to highlight issues and concerns. As any manager knows, what is statistically significant is not nearly so important as what is significant to the customer or to the business — real world, material significance. This is the biggest difference between traditional customer research and Voice of the Customer. Traditional research identifies what is statistically significant; VoC identifies what is important!

Doesn’t statistical significance measure importance? The answer is, not at all. Equating statistical significance with importance or real world, economic significance is lying with statistics. Equating the two is (i) scientific/statistical incompetence or (ii) fraud.

Statistical significance is the probability of detecting a result using an assumed theoretical probability distribution as a benchmark of expectations.  Now if that is what you are looking for – great. For those less interested in detectability estimates based on assumed theoretical probability distributions and more interested in finding what matters to people, then analytic methodologies such as Voice of the Customer are the only scientific approaches capable of delivering the results you are looking for.

You can’t be customer driven if you can’t tell the difference between the wheat and the chaff – between what is really important to customers and what isn’t.

Information for Action

Traditional customer research techniques (such as polling) can tell you how many customers feel this way or that about your product. But what traditional research cannot identify is why people like or dislike the product or service or what can be done about it. You have probably noticed your customer research has a so what quality to it, leaving management wondering: What am I supposed to do with this?

Voice of the Customer, however, is designed specifically to identify issues and concerns that of real and practical importance to both you and your customers. This is information that is specific, concrete and of real world importance – information that can be used to drive improvements in your products, services and programs. Information for action.

VoC not only produces information intended to support management action but also supports an accurate set of priorities. If you are using traditional customer research, you probably have an overwhelming numbers of statistically significant results. So many, it is hard to know where to start. Of course, most if not all of these results are of no practical importance. Statistical significance is used because it generates so many ‘significant’, albeit meaningless, results.

In contrast, VoC offers  fewer significant results but these few results will be of real, practical importance to you and the business. This gives you a  clear and concise set of improvement priorities that will actually make a difference.

The Customer Driven Organization

Some organizations believe they are customer driven simply because they conduct customer research and respond to it. In using traditional customer research they are more driven by meaningless statistical significance than by the real needs of customers. The only voice being heard is that of assumed theoretical probability distributions.

This produces a disconnect between the business and its customers. Products and services must be pushed  through heavy promotions, extensive discounting and hard the sell. The brand begins to suffer as does the reputation of the business.

Customer driven organizations are those that listen and respond directly to the voice of the customer. This voice is embedded into the design and delivery of products and services. The result are products and services that have value people demand and are willing to pay for–without all the pushing. Brand and reputation grow as the business is perceived as effectively responding to customer requirements.


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