NGN member Adam Annetts, PCQI and Business Improvement Advisor at Interserve brings the focus of the Voice of the Customer to the fore.
I have been asked to write a piece on a business improvement tool that will serve young Quality Professionals in their careers. Whilst racking my brains as to what I could possibly write about, there is one that really should be understood fully before any form of Quality analysis / business improvement can even being to take place.
I am firm believer that as technology advances, and the likes of automation become more common place. Businesses will be on an even playing field more than ever. It will down to an organisations ability to capture and act on subjective issues that will differentiate them from their competitor.
So, with that in mind I would like to talk about broadly about Voice of the Customer (Voc).
Any organization exists primarily to achieve a goal objective or mission that satisfies their stakeholders. Your customer being your key stakeholder, without them, your organization simply wouldn’t exist. Lose your customer base, lose your organisation.
Case study 1: Kodak
The company that founded the portable camera were one of the worlds most profitable companies in the 80s and 90s, but failed to realise the ever-changing market in the noughties.
Suddenly the voice of the customers was screaming digital, and they simply failed to listen. They continued to produce film-based products, for fear that if they moved to digital they would kill off their own product. The digital revolution came at the turn of the millennium, and Kodak were simply the slowest greyhound out of the trap.
It wasn’t until 2004 that they decided to finally ditch their film-based products and focus solely on digital, but it was too little too late. Their customer base had already moved to the likes of Sony and Canon whom welcomed them with open arms.
Kodak eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2012. The irony in all this is that in 1975 Kodak were the first company to make a digital camera. Many of the products we use today, such as the smartphone are based on patents filed by Kodak.
So what does this case study tell us?
A successful business is an agile one. An agile business is one that consistently monitors their customer base and asks their customer’s to tell them what they want, so they can react with agility.
This is Voice of the customer, and it can be broken down into two sub sections. Wants and Needs.
Need’s A Customer’s need is the primitive desire to purchase something for sake of necessity. You need a mobile phone, so you buy a mobile phone.
Want’s Wants are the customer’s superficial desires over and above their needs. You needed a mobile phone, so you bought one. However, you want the trendiest, most innovative one on the market.
I use the example of a mobile phone for good reason, and that reason isApple.
Case study 2: Apple
As I write this Apple have amassed a capital worth of £741.8 Billion Dollars, employ 92,600 employees and are number one on the list of Forbes most valuable brands in the world. The reason?
Their attention to detail when fulfilling unexpressed customer wants (in fact they are the leading players), and they deliver a pretty solid product too. They place customer service as their priority, fulfilling unexpressed customer’s wants the moment you walk into an Apple store. You are greeted enthusiastically from the “get go”, you’re encouraged to touch and play with the products on show and chat with the employees in store.
This creates a sense of belonging and loyalty that, in turn creates the cult like following they enjoy. Think Maslow hierarchy ofneeds and think about the physiological needs of a human being, the social need and the need to belong. This is what Apple does so well.
Then add an innovative product that customers want, shown off through clever marketing and it is no surprise when we consider their success.
They are constantly listening to their customer’s and constantly innovating on the back of that feedback.
It remains for me to say, the difference between Kodak and Apple are stark. However both provide us with great learning opportunities when it comes to listening to our customers.