Broadcasting the Voice of the Customer

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This white paper examines the role of the voice of the customer in achieving successful product or service innovation.

Customers are always talking about your products or services, but who knows what they are saying? If you’re like most organizations, only a select group of people have access to the voice of the customer. But would people view their jobs differently or approach them differently if they had access to the voice of the customer?

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Broadcasting the Voice of the Customer

  1. 1. Broadcasting the Voice of the Customer Braden Kelley – Innovation Excellence Broadcasting the Voice of the Customer Braden Kelley – Co-Founder, Innovation Excellence Before the industrial revolution, most businesses in the United States were sole proprietorships or small family run businesses. In those days, every member of the business was in direct contact with the customers and had the opportunity to passively or actively“To create shareholder value, it hear the voice of the customer.all starts with creatingproducts and services that aretruly valuable to consumers, The voice of the customer tells us what about our product or service that customers findnot merely useful.” valuable, and what they find annoying or useless. By focusing on what customers found valuable and removing or reducing what they found annoying, these small businesses could“A potato peeler is useful, aGood Grips potato peeler is accumulate financial successvaluable. People will pay a and customer loyalty.premium for an insightfulproduct or service.” In todays interconnected“The relative skill and speed world, we are in the midst of awith which you extract insightsfrom the voice of the customer revolution. Todayscustomer, and adapt your customer has unparalleledorganization to deliver the access to pricing and productrequired insightful productsand services, will determine information to enable a morewhether you win or lose in informed and economictomorrow’s marketplace.” purchasing decision. Today’sBraden Kelley customer benefits fromInnovation Excellence marketing developments such as mass customization, massRelated Quotes: personalization, and micro-segmentation. In addition, they have unrivaled access to communication channels to make their preferences known. But, who is really listening?“To acquire knowledge, onemust study; but to acquirewisdom, one must observe. We live in a world of corporations and conglomerates, where most of the employee class has no direct access to the voice of the customer. The man or woman stitching up your clothingObserve the people. Observeyourself and your friends… We has no idea whether the stitching method worked well for you, or if you were happy with thealready know the game – the product. They only know whether or not they madereal question today is how weplay it.” their daily quota and how much failed Quality Control. If the person stitching your clothing had“I would strongly argue that access to the voice of the customer, would they dothis is what makes our businessmodel and what we do so their job differently? Would they feel differentlycompelling and powerful. It’s about their job?about observation – insight –linked to knowledge – weknow and adapt and adapt In many of todays companies, the job of listening toagain – but without the customer falls to someone in the marketingobservation all the knowledgein the world is nothing more department, possibly even someone who doesthan one dimensional nothing but focus on brand and customer research. This person usually works with productinformation.” management and possibly research and development to inform product revisions and newDavid Sable product development. Often, very few people outside of that core team have access to theVice Chairman and COO voice of the customer. But why restrict customer feedback to a select few?Wunderman Worldwide
  2. 2. Broadcasting the Voice of the Customer Braden Kelley – Innovation Excellence“Today you can buy knowledgeby the pound -- from While it may be important to control access to the customer in order to avoid inappropriateconsultants hawking best contact, restricting access can stifle innovation and success. One way to control access is topractice, from the staff youve implement a managed research panel1. In this scenario, the customer research people in thejust hired from yourcompetitor, and from all those organization manage access to an opted-in sample of customers, allowing internalcompanies that hope you will constituents from anywhere in the organization to "purchase" a percentage of a focus group.outsource everything. Yet inthe age of revolution it is not Therefore, no single group has to bear the cost or the burden of organizing a focus group,knowledge that produces new but instead can access customers to ask their specific queries as a portion of the focuswealth, but insight -- insight groups overall session. In this way, groups as disparate as user documentation, branding,into opportunities fordiscontinuous innovation. and warranty service can seek to understand and ultimately improve their contribution toDiscovery is the journey; the overall quality of the product or service. But will this by itself lead to innovation?insight is the destination. Youmust become your own seer.” As the innovation velocity of an organization becomes aGary Hamel, Author more crucial competitive differentiator in the globalLeading the Revolution marketplace, it is mandatory that innovation becomes everyones responsibility in the organization. In order“We live in a society which is in for innovation to reliably happen at every level of thethe throes of a technologicalrevolution… The changes we organization, it will be extremely useful for all memberssee each year are probably to have access to the voice of the customer. Makinggreater than those our customer feedback available to all may include makingpredecessors encountered in adecade or perhaps even a focus group recordings and survey results available toworking lifetime. When I all employees, or at least those who register an interest.started in this industry, a goodad, promotion pattern, or a Having access to the voice of the customer will enablemedia strategy could remain all levels of the organization to submit more informedproductive for years. They now innovation project ideas and supporting justifications.pass into history almost as fastas the datelines on the But will this only lead to better products and services?magazines and papers we use.” Making the voice of the customer more widely available is not only likely to result in newLester Wunderman (1967)Founder, Chairman Emeritus product or service ideas, but is also likely to spur innovativeWunderman Worldwide ideas about how the organization can operate more efficiently. In addition, it has the potential to create a more customer- centric organization, to increase employee mobility within the organization, and to make it easier for disparate parts of the organization to communicate. So why arent all companies already doing this?Contacts:Braden Kelley Some companies may hesitate to share this informationCo-Founder because of a perceived risk of leaking to competitors, but theInnovation Excellence incremental risk is minimal. Marketing people go to work for3520 253RD CT SEIssaquah, WA 98029 the competition all the time, and competitors have the same ability to research customer(206) 349-8931 perceptions of your product as easily as their own. Organizations have so much to gain by granting access to the voice of the customer to all employees—and so little to lose. So what are you waiting for?Image credits - Wunderman (1) Thank you to Josep Hernandez and Corey Gehrt of Wunderman New York for bringing this concept to my attention

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