Management and the Voice of the Lonely Customer

There are many books available on the idea of the Voice of the Customer, VOC.  What does it really mean and why is it that organisations find it so hard to focus on it, if it is so important?

As a small business owner, it is easier for me to see the pain of not listening to my customers or likewise the impact when I do.  There is a direct correlation to the Customer – Income relationship.  I can see it in the bottom line.  However, in a larger organisation all staff do not necessarily have the information at hand that makes the link directly to them and their pocket.

It is not only the lack of direct feel but the additional feeling that develops that it is someone else’s job to deal with the “customer”.  How often have you heard that “Customer Service” or “Quality” are responsible for this or that,” go talk to them”.  Because of this the real ownership or responsibility for customers is not clearly understood.  We are so busy in our job that we lose sight too easily of what is crucial to our survival.

Management have a key responsibility to ensure staff see and feel the customer and what the customer is to them.

To that end management cannot see dealing with customers as being problematic, particularly in respect of complaints.  Avoid thinking that if they have your contact number they will hassle you.  Avoid thinking it is better if someone else answers them or that if you ignore them they will go away; they will.

Management need real direct engagement with customers as many times as possible, at all levels of the organisation.  Then management must open minds and systems to real engagement.

My recommendation to management, for what it is worth, is that your first thought should not be “here they go again complaining or asking for more stuff”, it should be “What are they really thinking and what are they telling us?”.  Once you start thinking like that you can really lead progress.

Mark Stockil is a Lean Sigma Educator and Director in QMOne Limited.

QMOne Limited Lean Sigma courses that explore the voice of the customer are enrolling now at CIT – Cork Institute of Technology – Lean Sigma Green Belt and CIT – Cork Institute of Technology – Lean Sigma Practitioner – Yellow Belt


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