Voice of the Customer In Lean Six Sigma: Capture, Analyze, Optimize

One of the quickest ways for a business to fail is to offer products or services that don’t align with customer demand. This can occur due to slow innovation, wasted resources, missed growth events, or non-competitive pricing. Voice of the Customer, as part of Lean Six Sigma methodologies, is a tool that can help you eliminate these risks.

By talking to your customers, and finding other ways to hear what they have to say, you can translate their needs and preferences into into measurable data. You can then use that data to optimize your processes and maximize customer satisfaction.

Here’s how VOC can be defined and used in your organization.

Benefits of Knowing VOC in Lean Six Sigma

Understanding any process begins by defining it. A good Voice of the Customer definition, as it applies to Lean Six Sigma, is that VOC is a conversation. The customer provides their expectations and preferences for a product or service, then the business does what it can to meet these requests.

Following VOC leads to Quality Improvement, Market Competitiveness, Continuous Improvement, and more.

Additional benefits of knowing VOC include:

Enhanced Customer Satisfaction

With each positive transaction, the chances of trust and loyalty from the customer’s perception increase. Customer satisfaction can come from defect reduction, customer-centric website designs, and transparent communication. VOC helps identify these less obvious contributors to the customer experience.

Operational Efficiency

Using VOC has an immense impact on Operational Efficiency by driving targeted improvements, reducing waste, and enhancing overall process effectiveness.

Companies can determine and prioritize areas of improvement. For example, if you have an online delivery service and customers have difficulty tracking where their orders are, you can implement automation for order confirmation or ensure real-time updates.

Data-Driven Decision Making

You can identify opportunities for improvement through metrics and other data. By incorporating VOC into decision-making processes, companies can make informed choices.

This is known as “data-driven insights.” It leads to increased customer satisfaction. Find out what the customer wants and give it to them.

4 Steps of Voice of Customer in Lean Six Sigma

VOC is a critical step in the “Define” phase of the Lean Six Sigma DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology. It’s an efficient way to ensure that improvements are based on data.

Implementing what you learn from VOC and measuring the results can be best explained in the following four steps:

  1. Interpret Customer Needs (CTQs): Translate customer requirements into measurable and specific metrics like critical-to-quality (CTQ).
  2. Transform Critical Customer Requirements (CCR): Decode CTQs into design or product specifications.
  3. Manage Key Process Output Variables (KPOV): Develop measurable indicators that help assess and monitor the performance of a process).
  4. Leverage Key Process Input Variables (KPIV): Adjust factors that can be controlled and reduce the variation on KPOV.

Categories of VOC in Lean Six Sigma

You can collect such an immense range of information, suggestions, and directions, that it may be overwhelming if not interpreted correctly.

One way to help understand all the collected data is to break it up into four specific VOC categories, or “voices,” each with its own emphasis, audience, and perspective.

Voice of Stakeholder (AKA: Voice of Employee)

  • Internal VOC: Gathers input from employees and internal stakeholders who interact with customers or are involved in producing and delivering products or services. This voice can come from employees sharing their experiences with customers from in-person interactions or service phone calls.

 Voice of Investor (AKA: Voice of Business)

  • Inferred VOC: Draws conclusions about customer needs and expectations based on data, trends, and patterns observed in customer behavior. The VOI also represents the expectations and needs of stakeholders and investors. This voice can come from a review of market trends or purchasing history.

 Voice of Customer

  • Direct VOC: Collects customer feedback through direct interactions, reviews, and interviews. This voice can also come from third-party feedback like customer surveys after the completion of a transaction.

 Voice of Process (AKA: Voice of Market)

  • Indirect VOC: Obtains information about customer needs and experiences from non-direct sources, such as social media. This voice can come from reading product reviews on third-party sales sites.

Best Practices for Capturing and Analyzing VOC

Capturing and analyzing VOC is a central concern for good LSS methodology – our LSS training has more than 40 learning modules on the concept!

As you dive into Process Improvement, you’ll discover the preferred strategies for your organization. But you can also learn from best practices followed by many leading global companies:

  1. Identify and define the objective for implementing the VOC program. Is it to better understand the feasibility of a new product? Or to determine a low loyalty rate? Or something else? This helps measure boundaries and scope.
  2. Use a variety of data collection methods. Diversify your methods of obtaining feedback. Any singular means may skew one way or another, but with many sources, a more complete picture is formed.
  3. Apply VOC tools to help define the customer and their requirements, such as using a Translation Matrix, a Tree Diagram, an Affinity, Diagram, Variation Analyses, etc. These tools will put the data collected into quantifiable and visual mediums.

Standard Methods to Gather VOC in Lean Six Sigma

There are many ways to gather appropriate VOC insight. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Online Surveys: Questions for existing or potential customers relating to a product, service, or experience.
  • In-Person Surveys: Questions asked in an interview format with an opportunity for open-ended discussion.
  • Website Forms: An easy, automated method to obtain information from anyone who wants to share their ideas, feedback, or experience with a product or service.
  • Observations: Analyzing a transaction from a neutral perspective helps identify impacts not noticed by those within a process.
  • Suggestions: Feedback provided by customers, employees, or anyone else involved in the process.

VOC is an essential concept within the LSS methodology, and the more you learn about and implement it, the more successfully your company’s products and services will align with customers.

To learn more about the benefits of VOC or other tools in Lean Six Sigma, start your free training today.

Mochi is the AI Master Black Belt at GLSS. He helps everyone understand Lean Six Sigma in our online courses and provides real-time guidance on how to use Lean Six Sigma tools via live chat. He's supported by our team of Master Black Belts who have 40+ experience.

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