The "Voice of the Customer" (VOC) is a phrase from Six Sigma that means the opinions and needs of your customers are being considered as you develop your products and services. In other words, the customer's desires are always foremost in your mind. Do you frequently ask yourself, "What is the voice of our customer?" "What do they really want from us?"
Customers are always looking for companies they can trust. They reward those that meet or exceed their expectations and allow the others to fail. Everything about your business—advertising, cleanliness, return merchandise policy, courtesy and knowledge of employees, product selection, location, delivery time, and so forth—is what matters to them. NOT JUST LOW PRICE! Your entire business is your product, and it must sparkle. When it does, you become the "best deal" to your target customer.
What is critically important?
Each customer contact is a moment of truth, a time when a relationship is either made or broken. From the customer's point of view, certain things are "Critical to Quality" (CTQ). You must meet customer CTQ specifications or expectations precisely, or you will lose their business.
In a previous life, I had a business that manufactured framed art. We also contracted with large companies like American Greetings to make small-framed gift items. On one occasion, we shipped 5,000 plaques to a major distributor of religious books and gifts. To our shock, the customer called to report that the inspirational message on the plaque contained a misspelled word. The word "privilege," was printed as "priviledge." Neither our company nor theirs caught the mistake. They shipped the product back, and we remade the 5,000 plaques. From the customer's point of view, the product did not meet specifications. (We split the cost of rework.)
At another time, we had a hot product—silhouetted trees printed on glass and set against recessed background prints.
This item blew out the doors of our retail customers. We manufactured around the clock but could not keep up with the demand. Our shipments got further and further behind. Some customers canceled their orders because we failed to meet delivery expectations.
After you learn from the voice of the customer what is critical to quality in their minds, you must ensure that your business systems and processes help you deliver on your promise. Nothing can be left to chance. When you win the trust of customers, they will become raving fans.
Four Customer Expectations
Remember this: All customers want four important things from your product or service.
- High-Quality - No defects; does what it is supposed to do; as good or better than the competition.
- Speed - On schedule; meets deadline; no delay.
- Low Cost - Good value; competitively priced; occasional bargains.
- Pleasurable - Good buying experience (clean store, knowledgeable sales people, etc.); "killer customer care."
While you are in The Zone tomorrow, quickly list what is critical to quality for your customers. Consider the four criteria above. Then find a way to enhance your business systems and elevate your product or service beyond your competition. Your customers will love you for it, and reward you handsomely!