If your organization wants to spearhead continuous improvement, it is absolutely imperative you first identify the major factors that are important to your customers and what motivates them to stay loyal to your business. We all hear this commonly referred to as "listening to the voice of the customer," and most businesses are willing to go an extra mile to find and identify the voice of the external customer. Once found, however, what do you do with it?
Improve Retention through Alignment and Closing Gaps. The primary concept of listening to the voice of the customer requires a business to first assess and determine whether a business process is achieving optimum efficiency and, more importantly, reaping maximum returns. Where customers are generally concerned about the effectiveness of a particular process, businesses tend to focus more on optimizing the efficiency of their process. Listening to the voice of the customer helps close that gap so you don't continue to improve upon something your customers will eventually retire or replace because it does not meet their business needs.
Improve Product and Service Development. Through regular discussions and brief interactive sessions, businesses are able to collect invaluable information and details on the most important needs of their customers. The business can then deploy resources to mold generic needs of customers into specific products and services, sometimes known as “critical-to-quality” requirements or CTQs. The business can then analyze the new product or service to establish whether the CTQs are aligned with the requirements of the customers.
The Voice is a Chorus, Not a Solo. When seeking out and listening to the voices of your customers, use caution when relying upon one or two strong altos or sopranos. All too often, a customer can inadvertently use its influence and purchasing power to enlist support of its own needs, which may not necessarily be the needs of a large share of your market. To avoid sinking R&D dollars into an initiative that only one or two customers will buy, organize a customer advisory board or council to facilitate interaction between your executives and a group of customer decision makers who represent a larger segment of the market. Listening to a group of decision makers together allows businesses to gain insight into the requirements of a collective of customers in order to effectively identify and translate their needs into meaningful and profitable results.
In order to achieve long-term sustainable growth, a business must have the capacity to effectively identify and listen to the collective voice of the customer through ongoing, interactive sessions. As obvious as it may sound, customers will play a crucial role in the overall development of the business as well as its long-term success - as long as you are willing to listen to them.