Voice of the Customer in a Widget-Free World

Voice of the Customer in a Widget-Free World

Voice of the Customer in a Widget-Free World

Tony Belilovskiy, Principal, C3 Excellence and Robin Lawton, Author, Customer Strategist, Keynote/Motivational Speaker, Consultant, Executive Coach, Guru

kHUB post date: August 10, 2023
Read time: 45 minutes

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Pain need not be the motivator for improvement. When an already well-performing medium-sized financial organization suddenly achieves new revenue growth of $8 million within 90 days of asking its customers new questions, it is tempting to dismiss such results as just chance, magic, or marketing hyperbole. But a highly regulated government agency with a captive customer base applied the same VOC methodology and jumped from 25th to the top five in performance, received a deluge of customer kudos, saved over $20 million in two years and won national acclaim. A renowned hospital’s cardiothoracic department discovered that addressing the most important three patient priorities lead to a 50% cycle time reduction for post-operative care. Maybe these results aren’t just at fluke. On the other hand, it can be hard to believe that simply misunderstanding what customers want could be cause for so much grief. Consider just the producer side of the equation for a moment. The third largest U.S. phone company lost close to 6 million unhappy customers in one year1. One company lost 40% of its stock value and over $12.6 billion in five years . Another lost more than one multi-billion dollar contract to insightful rivals. A city government agency incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs in a single year. The magnitude of the opportunity is eye-popping, cutting across every industry. The need for change is not news to customers. Misunderstanding customers is not a sign of stupidity. But habitual misunderstanding is a preventable disease, whose symptoms may be hidden. Effective remedies are not so easy to find. As the “silent scream of the customer” (SSOC) becomes more audible, many correction efforts get adopted. They can include beefed up marketing campaigns, adding more resources to “customer care”, conducting more surveys and training lots of employees in statistical methods with Greek names. Results can be elusive. Reducing dissatisfaction does not cause satisfaction. The absence of death or illness does not mean patients are in good health. The good health of your enterprise can be dramatically enhanced by unambiguously understanding what customers want. But methods for capturing the voice of the customer (VOC) can feel like learning a foreign language. My purpose here is to outline the understandable, practical steps you can take to proactively understand what customers want, even beyond what they may have told you . The objective is to enable you to actually give it to them by design in the shortest time, at least cost and at most benefit for you. Users of Lean, Six Sigma, ISO-9001, Baldrige Criteria, satisfaction surveys, HCAHPS criteria and other approaches should find that the methods described here significantly strengthen what they are already doing. Over 85% of us in North America do not personally manufacture widgets. We are immersed in knowledge and service work. There is broad demand today for a simple way to know (1) who “the customer” really includes, (2) what questions to ask to uncover unstated priority wants, (3) how to prioritize and understand their answers and (4) how to define, deliver and measure success with knowledge work. Language is inherently ambiguous. The challenge in capturing the voice of the customer (VOC) is to eliminate confusion about who the customers really are and understand what they want so we can predictably create satisfaction and excitement. The author describes a refreshingly simple way to redefine work and use simple “word formulas” to eliminate ambiguity with math-like precision. Relevance is universal. Traditional VOC concepts used today can be traced to Yoji Akao’s work with Toyota in the 1960’s. His 1978 book on the Quality Function Deployment (QFD) methodology5 introduced a valuable, but highly complex system. It is far beyond what most of us mere mortals outside of manufacturing need. This article describes a simple (but not simplistic) approach for the rest of us; practical for non-technical people at any level of an organization

About the Authors

Tony Belilovskiy joined C3 Excellence in 2017. He is Vice President of the International Institute for Customer-Centered Leadership (IICCL), a C3 Strategic Advisor and a C3 Strategic Project Management trainer and facilitator. His diverse expertise includes operational excellence, project management training and coaching, culture change management, engineering in metallurgy, ballistics, licensed clinician, healthcare administration, auditor, healthcare consulting, entrepreneurial business ownership, statistician and conference speaker.

During his career spanning over 25 years in the United States, he has worked in and with community hospitals and tertiary medical facilities as both a clinician and administrator, group physician practices, Fortune 500 Company, medical insurance companies, government entities, developed courses and taught at several universities and colleges. Tony’s diverse and multicultural experience has made a huge positive financial and operational impact on multiple companies.

Tony has an extensive international and cross-cultural experience. He is very familiar with what it takes to achieve rapid and durable cultural change for leaders at every rank within an enterprise. Tony has the proven ability to manage multiple initiatives, with a strong commitment to results ranging from business growth, operational savings, employee engagement and customer delight. He speaks three languages, has a sharp and inquiring mind, and pairs all that with an easy sense of humor that makes him a joy to work with.

Rob Lawton is an internationally recognized author, executive coach and expert in creating rapid strategic alignment between enterprise objectives and customer priorities. He has directed both strategic and operational improvement initiatives since 1985. Thousands of change leaders have used his powerful but easy-tounderstand principles, strategies and tools to improve and measure service, knowledge work and customer satisfaction. He coined the term “customercentered culture” with his first book, Creating a Customer-Centered Culture: Leadership in Quality, Innovation and Speed (5-star rated at www.Amazon.com). His fourth, 2017 book, is Mastering Excellence: A Leader’s Guide to Aligning Strategy, Culture, Customer Experience and Measures of Success. He has been published and referenced by other authors worldwide.

Mr. Lawton is an engaging keynote speaker, ranked #1 of 88 international speakers by ASQ and featured by leadership organizations such as the Japan Management Association, Chamber of Commerce, Federal Executive Board, Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME), American Marketing Association (AMA), International Conference on ISO 9000 and many others.

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