Voice Of The Customer And Focus Groups
The ‘Voice of the customer’ is a tool or process of gathering customer input about the proposed or existing services or products depending on the situation.
If a company’s success depends on knowing what the customer wants, then it should develop products and services based on customer feedback, and this should be done sooner rather than later.
The focus groups may be thought of as special purpose vehicles or mechanisms to facilitate and understand the voice of the customer better, organize the gathered data, evaluate the evolved feedbacks and channelize them in concise fashion to the developers for deliberation and further action. In a way, focus groups can serve as live links between the customer and the development department.
Going a step further, we understand that there is a need for two focus groups with different missions. The first one focuses on exploring the collective needs of customers. Develop and evaluate concepts for new product development as sensed or demanded by the voice of the customer. This group is generally called an explorative focus group. The other one is an experiential focus group, used to observe the usage of products in the market and study what the customers feel and experience about the products, learning their reasons and motivations to use the product.
How Do Focus Groups Conduct Voice Of the Customer Sessions?
The voice of customer sessions are conducted for long periods of 1 to 3 hours with typically 8 to 10 participants from the customer side. The objectives of the session are defined and clear in the minds of the participants. To begin with, it requires an experienced facilitator to organize the session from initiating to inviting everyone who is designated to participate.
The customers are identified from the group which has expressed interest and been invited. The agenda, presentation and procedures for the session are developed and honed by the facilitator as a precursor. The facilitator may decide to do a rehearsal of the session beforehand, in order to fine-tune the actual session.
The actual session may be commenced by a moderator who presents the idea, the purpose and the product description and a group of observers oversee the session. The overseers watch the session from a separate room without the knowledge of the participants and record the outcomes on video and audiotapes.
Member Participants Are Not Statistical Representatives of Customers
Owing to the small number of ‘representative customers’ at each session, the outcome of the session (the comments and feedback) can’t be directly taken as the representation of the customers’ voice as a whole. The session must be punctuated by careful selection of participants and increasing the number of sessions conducted does give validity to these sessions.
The results from these sessions can be generalized for acceptance after deliberating over against a comprehensive backdrop. The same theory applies to both explorative as well as experiential focus groups.
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution’s Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.