The Voice of the Customer (VOC) aims to establish who are the key customers of the process under investigation and what their high level requirements are. A process customer is someone who is closely affected or touched by the process output and often ‘receives’ the output. A stakeholder is different since they are interested in the process improvement but do not always receive the process output.
Lean is a customer centric process and meeting customer needs is a key principle for process improvement. The VOC identifies both internal and external customers and captures their needs in a clear and concise way so that the process improvement has a focus to deliver improvements that are of value to the customer(s). Solutions generated should be checked for alignment with the customer needs.
How it works
Generating VOC is an important task and the process improvement team should initially identify who are the internal and external customers and then estimate what their needs are. The following workshop flipchart shows a list of customers for a process and their high level needs.
Depending on the complexity of the process a range of techniques can be used to gather and validate the VOC:
- Affinity diagrams
- Focus Groups
- Interviews – face to face
- Direct observation
The VOC needs to be converted from general statements about the process performance to clear measurements depending upon whether the main issues are for example quality, cost or delivery speed. The phrase ‘Critical to X’ is used where X represents this main issue.
VOC steps are
- Identify the customer groups
- Determine what their high level needs are in customer language
- Translate the customer language into specific values
- Validate the specific values
Tips – capture VOC in the investigation phase of the project but the earlier the better – accept that there will be different customer categories and different needs some the same and others conflicting eg we want a high tech solution and we want a low cost solution. Remember that customers can be internal and/or external and they may have the same or different high level needs. Speak to people in the process!