By John Burns, Ph.D.
Everyone seems to use the term Voice of the Customer these days. But what do they mean when they say Voice of the Customer? The answer is not clear. Some refer to customer satisfaction or loyalty research programs to support the customer experience. Others have in mind the many software platforms that enable users to field their own customer-research surveys. Still others mean any kind of market research with customers. These definitions are all incorrect-- there’s more to this than just a name. The real answer matters.
Voice of the Customer has a specific meaning. It refers to a scientifically proven research method involving best practices for conducting qualitative and quantitative research to support innovation. This method has been proven in real-world practice for more than 25 years. It was published in 1993 by Applied Marketing Science co-founder, John Hauser, of the MIT Sloan School, and Abbie Griffin, then an MIT graduate student and now at the University of Utah. Their article, “The Voice of the Customer,” was the first use of the term. Their research demonstrates the right way to conduct research to support innovation. It provides evidence on the effectiveness of various methods of data collection and analysis, and it contains best practices for conducting research to support the development of new products, services, and customer experiences.