By John Burns, Ph.D.
In my work conducting innovation training programs and product innovation consulting, I’m sometimes told, “We’ve done Voice of the Customer research, but we didn't learn anything new,” or “… we still missed an important customer requirement,” or “… the competition came out with something better anyway.”
The reality is very different. When these same people describe the type of research they conducted, it’s never real Voice of the Customer. The problem is not the Voice of the Customer method, but that they don’t know what Voice of the Customer is, or they don’t understand that altering the method reduces its effectiveness.
Voice of the Customer is a scientifically proven research method that has been used by businesses all over the world for more than 25 years.
The real Voice of the Customer research method:
- Identifies a comprehensive understanding of customer needs, so you know you’re not missing anything
- Involves having customers prioritize needs, so you know what customers want you to work on first and why
- Provides fundamental insights that last, so you know you won’t need to do this research for several years unless you’re in a market that experiences a high rate of product innovation (e.g., consumer electronics)
Voice of the Customer research rests upon fact and evidence, not opinion or preference. It involves, for example, recommendations on how to construct customer samples, conduct customer interviews, write surveys, analyze research, report on the findings to drive innovation, and much more.
The real Voice of the Customer method was published in the leading market research journal, Marketing Science, in 1993. Marketing Science is a peer-reviewed academic journal, not a popular business magazine or self-published book. The writing in this journal is in the public domain. The method involves no black boxes or proprietary techniques. None are necessary for the method to work for you, just as it’s worked for others. The original article is titled, appropriately enough, “The Voice of the Customer.” This was the first use of this now-popular term. You can request a copy of the article here.
“The Voice of the Customer” was co-authored by AMS co-founder, John Hauser, of the MIT Sloan School, and Abbie Griffin, then at MIT and now at the University of Utah. It is research about how to conduct customer research to support innovation. It shows evidence for and against various methods, and it arrives at a set of recommendations, based on evidence, that form the most effective and efficient way to conduct research to support innovation. These methods have been proven to work for nearly three decades of real-world practice.
The real Voice of the Customer is a proven, scientific method. It’s worked for leading companies for over 30 years. And, if you do it the right way, it will help you develop successful products, services, and distinctive customer experiences.
For more information, you can watch my webinar, “Voice of the Customer: Fact vs. Fiction.” This webinar provides an overview of a few of the highlights of the method, and explains how to distinguish it from other types of research. For a more in-depth understanding of how to fully reap the benefits of VOC, you can attend our public training in Voice of the Customer or contact us to conduct a private Voice of the Customer training for your organization.