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How To Handle Critical Voice of Customers (VOCs)?

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“I'm interested in your perspective on how to handle a Voice of the Customer (VOC) issue. Often, companies have a list of customer requirements that encompass a wide range of things: Various functions of a product or service, design elements such as color and shape, materials, engineering specifications such as torque and inertia, components, failure modes, price, tasks, as well as durability, reliability, safety, cost, and so forth.

One problem is that when one has to include critical items such as reliability and/or safety in a QFD analysis, then these concerns tend to trump everything else when doing the paired comparisons of an Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) analysis.

For example, a project team developing an industrial product may face a question, 'What is the relative importance of safety versus torque? Of course, safety gets the highest possible rating. How do you handle the Voice of the Customer (VOC) rankings in these situations? Is there a better way to frame the question?”

Below is a reply from Glenn Mazur, Executive Director of the QFD Institute. You, too, may find it useful.

“You have well described one of the basic yet very important problems that QFD practitioners face. How do you handle critical requirements such as reliability, cost, safety, and even regulatory issues?

“Often, the QFD approach in this area is not well explained in most articles and books that are available in English today, mostly because the authors seem more hung up on the tools than fully understanding the theory and reasoning behind them. Let me try to set the record straight.

“The goal of QFD is to bring value to customers as measured by their level of satisfaction. Value is the relationship between the fulfillment of a need and the price they pay for that fulfillment. The price the customer pays has some relationship to the cost the manufacturer or provider bears to make or deliver the product plus a profit commensurate with fair return and risk. Pretty basic stuff.

“The kicker for most companies is how to know the customer's value system. Traditional QFD takes the customer's word for it and assumes he/she knew what he/she wanted and could tell us accurately and completely. Customers, in response to our advertising messages and wishing to help us do our job better, go to great lengths to describe what they expect in terms of safety, cost, reliability, torque, weight, etc. In other words, customers are telling the producers how to design, and we the producers assumed this was all we needed to know about customer needs.

“There are two problems with this approach. First, on what bases do you think customers know more about your products than your engineers and designers? Secondly, customers speak their own language that is different than the language of the producers. Customers’ requirements are their best guess at what they think they need based on their past experience. We have all experienced that we can give customers exactly what they ask for and they are still not happy, they still don't buy. Why?

“The Modern QFD response is that you have to define customer needs as customer goals independent of product. Since issues such as safety, cost, reliability, torque, weight, etc. describe the product, they must be translated into customer needs. The Modern QFD tool we use to do this is called the Customer Voice Table. Then, when the customer is asked to prioritize their needs, the conflict that you have described disappears. Other tools can even help discover unspoken needs. This is Best Practice QFD.

“This is a relatively new area of Modern QFD , a U.S.-made contribution in recent years. The Customer Voice Table, mentioned above, is one of a series of new analytic tools developed by the QFD Institute’s research and development. I invite you to come see example of these tools and Modern QFD case studies at the Symposium, or better yet, join us in the next public course, which includes the Modern QFD templates and you can practice new tools on your work project in the class."

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