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Lean Six Sigma methodology is grounded on the voice of the customer. The Define phase collects and assesses information concerning the customer perspective and uses it to focus the project activities.
Voice of the Customer
Lean Six Sigma methodology is grounded on the Voice of the Customer. The Define phase collects and assesses information concerning the customer perspective and uses it to focus the project activities.
When to use
Voice of the Customer is collected and analyzed during the Define phase.
An important best practice in improvement methodologies is to have a customer focus. The Voice of the Customer (VOC) is used to collect the customer’s perspective and desired process performance.
There are two categories of customers, external and internal. External customers are individuals or organizations that are not part of the organization performing the process but procure or use a portion of the process results. External customers can be indirectly involved with the process results – such as government agencies or regulatory bodies with oversight in the areas of the process output.
Internal customers are individuals or departments that are part of the organization performing the process and use all or a portion of the results. Internal customers can include the individuals performing the process activities.
Customers have needs with regards to the process outputs. The customer needs are related to how the customer intends to apply or use the process output. These needs are often translated by the Lean Six Sigma team into Customer Requirements. These would be measurable attributes of the process that, when achieved, should enable the customer needs to be fulfilled.
Customer needs can occur in many different categories including:
- Customer cost – money expended by the customer
- Delivery – time impact on the customer
- Performance – based upon design characteristics of the process output
- Quality – how well the process performs it activities
- Brand – affinity or promise associated with the process output
- Relationships – interactions and personalization provided through the process activities
Customer needs can be collected with several different techniques. Many Lean Six Sigma teams will use a combination of techniques. Which technique to use will depend upon the unique business context and process characteristics.
- Surveys: A designed set of questions that are sent out to existing customers.
- Interviews: One-on-one meetings with existing customers.
- Focus Group: A group of existing customers are called together to discuss a specific topic.
- Suggestions: Client/Customer/Employee feedback to improve the process.
- Observations: Observe the process steps to provide feedback on the process.
Hints & tips
- The only way to be sure you have the Voice of the Customer is to communicate with them. Beware of someone in the organization acting as their spokesperson. Often the information is skewed by their biases.
- Use multiple information gathering techniques. Different techniques will reach different customers and all of them are important.
- Technical teams tend to over-focus on the performance and quality categories of customer needs and ignore the others. Be sure you check for needs in all categories.
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