Voice of the Customer Deconstructed


I’m not a foodie.  I don’t really like most vegetables and am particular about most other things I eat.  I’m not one to explore menus.  I’m not sure what the restaurant lingo for a customer like me is; I love to order the same thing again and again at different restaurant.  When I was swinging shifts at the beginning of my career at Milliken, I’d gotten to a point in my dining experience where I would simply walk into Monterrey’s Mexican Restaurant, and the waiters would bring me my steak fajitas.

But I do like watching Bravo’s Top Chef.  I like the bickering and the intensity and the disasters and the curve balls.  I really like seeing extremely talented men and women young in their careers stretching themselves, learning new content and discovering and breaking through the boundaries of their potential. 

One of the terms I learned through Top Chef was the idea of a dish deconstructed.  A deconstructed dish can be approached in a few different ways.  At it’s core, it is taking a well-known dish and putting a brand new spin on it.  This can be accomplished through advanced techniques like molecular gastronomy (see this video of Hot Maple Ice Cream or White Chocolate Spaghetti.   Or it can be simply taking an idea and giving it a brand new twist, like Top Chef’s Stephanie Izard’s PB&J found at her Girl and the Goat restaurant in Chicago.  My first discovery of a dish deconstructed was  Jambalaya Pasta from The Cheesecake Factory in Redondo Beach.  I would hunt this place down when I visited Torrance when I lived in Phoenix with AlliedSignal Aerospace.  A huge menu even in the early 1990’s, but I stuck with this California twist on a Cajun classic.

So I’m taking this same approach of deconstruction to the topic of Customer Satisfaction and the Voice of the Customer. 

Voice of the Customer Deconstructed.

At its simplest, customer satisfaction is about understanding if a company’s products and services make their customers happy, if they are satisfied with the company.  There is an understanding that this is a good thing, that satisfied customers lead to greater revenues, higher profits.  Very few executives climb the corporate ladder by ignoring customers. 

Yet very few companies treat their understanding of customers as a competitive advantage.  It is rare to see companies truly build an intelligence network where executives understand customers better than they understand themselves.  Companies have sophisticated methodologies in new product development, pipeline management, portfolio optimization.  But executives still struggle with the complexity of customer behavior, things customers say, ratings they provide.  What to make of all this information, often contradictory findings and at the least unclear.  

I approach the Voice of the Customer with a five-step, closed-loop process that follows the Plan/Do/Check/Act cycle

  1. Identify the customer
  2. Capture customer information
  3. Analyze customer data
  4. Deploy findings
  5. Communicate

This is a flexible process which can guide a specific research project or can align a company’s entire approach to customer understanding.  I have detailed processes and methodologies for this process and each of these steps.  At its simplest, you can boil this down into two key concepts:  What do customers want, and Give them what they want.  Most corporate resources and attention go to the former, and many companies fall well short with the latter. 

In this VOC Deconstructed series, I will attack each of these steps with a series of posts drawing on my experiences over the last 20 years working with global manufacturing firms throughout Asia Pacific, EMEA, and the Americas.  Feel free to email me at craig.cunningham@customeris.net if you have any questions or input.  Look for the first post later this week, and we’ll begin at the end with the area I think companies do the worst job of when it comes to driving customer loyalty; Communication of VOC Findings

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