No, I’m not talking about Channel 7’s singing show with Seal, Joel Madden, Delta Goodrem and Ricky Martin!
The “Voice of the Customer” is the only voice you should ever be listening to – to ensure you are working on the RIGHT problems. Somebody has to care about the problem you are fixing. It has to be a problem to SOMEONE important.
Every process you have in your business has an output. That output means something to someone. That someone may be an internal customer (within your business) or an external customer (outside your business). In some circles, the concept of “Voice of the Customer” is restricted to just “customers” – either internal or external.
Here, I say “Voice of the Customer”. This also includes Employees, Contractors, Suppliers and the Business (usually You, the owner, concerned about a higher-level business issue). The “Voice of the Customer” is finding out from these people their requirements for your product or service and seeing where your processes fall short of that expectation.
We both know the basics:
- Happy customers refer other people – directly or indirectly
- Happy employees are more productive – you get more bang for your buck
- Happy owners are a joy to be with and work for!
When you use Business Excellence tools to improve a problem that is actually perceived to be a problem, you will get engagement in the improvement process! Think of the message you are sending – you have recognized a problem that is important to someone AND are actively working to improve it! Engagement will be much, much, much, MUCH easier.
Typically in small business, customers have no idea what their requirements are. Finding that out can be tricky. The best source is complaints, informal “bitching” or off-hand comments. Someone may not know what they DO want, however clearly know what they DON’T want. Listen to what is being said or specifically left unsaid. Listen to your customers, your employees, contractors, suppliers and your own voice. Listen to the “Voice of the Customer”.
This is by far the most important Business Excellence element you must understand. You can do every other step and tick every box and Lean Six Sigma your business from here to the moon and back. If you do not have genuine, natural, engagement, right from the start … nothing will stick and nothing will go anywhere. Implementation will not happen – or it will for a while and then stop. Don’t kid yourself with the notion of “if they want a job here, then they will be involved, do actions and implement”.
In every person I have worked with … small business, medium business, big business … when this element was missing, the whole improvement project ended up being a waste of time.
Stop trying to convince people to be engaged – just start on something they want to improve. Listen to the “Voice of the Customer” and use that as your starting point for identifying improvement projects.