By John C Mitchell
Understanding customer needs—The Voice of the Customer—is a prerequisite to successful product and customer experience innovation. Without good knowledge of what customers want, backed up by defensible market research, design and development teams risk wandering aimlessly toward a poorly defined objective. The result is greater risk that products or services fail in the market. Understanding customer needs does not always require teams to hire outside consultants to collect and interpret VOC. Plenty of companies enjoy considerable success adopting a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach. So can you.
That said, building a strong in-house VOC capability can go awry quickly. There are many examples of companies that have attempted to make customer-centric innovation a core competency, only to see those efforts founder due to poor preparation and execution. The best guarantee of success is to begin with a strong foundation, laid with the help of Voice of the Customer experts who understand how to execute best practices, and how to help your company achieve them. If your 2019 plans include a tune-up of your VOC skills, or a complete overhaul, here are the three most important things to consider in choosing a partner:
- Theory, Applied Practically. Theories of the best way to learn what customers want abound in both academic and trade literature, ranging from articles in peer-reviewed journals to junk science propagated by consultants eager to claim a new corner of a crowded market. While some theories are demonstrably better than others, no theory is valuable that is not also practical for you. A good VOC coach will help you identify and adopt best practices that you can do yourself, without extraordinary effort.
- Real-World Experience. Voice of the Customer is an established discipline, and some practitioners have been at it for over three decades. A good coach will have done VOC in every industry, both B2C and B2B. They will have hands-on experience with every method, including both tried-and-true tools and emerging techniques and technologies. They will be alert to fads. Most importantly, they will draw on a deep reservoir of history to predict common failure points and help you avoid a costly mistake.
- Commitment to Your Success. An effective in-house VOC capability cannot be created in a single workshop. Classroom instruction is important, but it is only a first step. Some issues only appear when you get into the field, asking real questions to real customers. Other issues arise during analysis or interpretation. It helps to have someone by your side to guide you. A top VOC coach can weigh in at critical points in your project with advice, to offer shortcuts, and to connect you with resources that can help you get the job done right.
Anyone who has ever played a sport understands that a good coach is essential to developing proper technique, practicing effectively, and preparing a game plan based on years of similar experience. Understanding your customers to help you innovate is no different. If you would like to learn about how Applied Marketing Science has helped thousands of individuals at companies of every shape and kind up their VOC game for nearly 30 years, contact our team of expert VOC coaches today.