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Voice of the Customer (VoC) | Introduction…

Voice of the Customer (VoC) places the customer at the heart of the improvement process. This drives value and ensures that value is aligned to strategy because:

  • Customers are the reason for the organisations existence – they pay the bills
  • Delivers the key customer needs – their requirements
  • Removes waste by focusing on what the customer really wants

VoC translates key customer requirements into delivery of products or services offered.

When reviewing a process there are often different ‘views’ depending on where you sit within the process or how you are impacted:

  1. Working on a part of the process – if this is the case then the perspective is usually on the part of the process which we contribute to
  2. The customer will see the ‘contractual’ element of the process which impacts them – but also a little to the right of this
  3. The full end to end view – this is the view which should be considered for transformation and requires a team to take a step back and assess what is happening across the process


There are often more than one ‘voice’ of customer for any organisation as in most cases different types of customers have different needs.

Voice of the Customer | Elements

Element 1Identifying Customers

Firstly, who are your customers? Now this should be very easy and simple for organisations and teams to answer yet sometimes this starting point can lead to much debate. Customers are anybody or organisation that is the recipient of a product or service (known as an output) from the work steps (processes).Remember customers maybe:

  1. External – end users – individuals or organisations
  2. Internal – other departments, colleagues. These are normally the recipient of the process or the next team in the process
  3. Regulatory – i.e. a government body

Their requirements need to be delivered-on for the process, project and ultimately the organisation to be a success. This leads on nicely to the first tool for identifying our customers the SIPOC.

A SIPOC is essentially a high-level process map, that presents easy enough for outsiders to get an understanding of the process, the key process elements and for our purposes here the Customers:

S – The suppliers who provide the input to the process

I – The inputs

P – The operation performed on the input (the actual process)

O – The outputs

C – The customers who receive the outputs

A SIPOC can sometimes be known by the acronym COPIS the key change here is starting with the customer – other variations places the customer in the middle (at the heart of the activity).

Customer Segmentation – A key rationale for customer segmentation is to provide clarity. Not segmenting customers may prove impossible to get to a single voice and the conflicting views can lead to an organisation going off in disparate directions. Ultimately not delivering for any customer type.

Another key point to note is that not all customers are created equal… . As uncomfortable as that maybe to say, when reviewing an organisation, or your own organisation, you will realise that certain segments provide much greater value than others and these are who we should focus on.

We segment customers by their needs and composition.  



There are 3 other voices we also need to listen to in a lean project. These are the Voice of the Business (VoB); Voice of the Employee (VoE) and additionally the Voice of the Process (VoP). These voices also have a significant interest in the project. The skill is in delivering the right balance.

Element 2 – Collecting Voice of the Customer (VoC)

Collecting the Voice of the Customer (VoC) is where we begin to understand the customer needs and wants. We can be:

  1. Reactive – The feedback flows from the customer usually in the form of complaints, post contact surveys, compliments or;
  2. Proactive – The organisation takes the initiative to understand from the customer: Focus Groups, Online Surveys, Customers involved in problem solving, proactively mining customer contacts

We also categorise the sources of information that we gather:

  1. Internal and External Data: Company Data and Management Information; Industry Experts/Advisory Organisations; Competitors;
  2. Listening Posts: Complaints; Contact Centre Agents; Store Agents; Contact Mining; Social Media
  3. Research Methods: Focus Groups; Surveys; Observations

Once all this data is amassed we need to process the information to take what can be unstructured data and turn into something usable by the organisation. Affinity Mapping is one technique that we can deploy here.

In short, Affinity Mapping is a form of categorisation that clusters together items of a similar nature. In this case it will be the customer verbatim’s or other information from the customers on their requirements.


Element 3 – Critical to Quality

Critical to Quality (CTQ) is the term to describe what customers require from the product/service. It takes the verbatim or other feedback (element 2 above) to understand their drivers of quality and turns that into measurable elements.

CTQ trees are a technique for following the Need, through to Driver, through to Critical measurements. An example:

  • Need (VoC)– Customer Satisfaction
    • “It takes too long to get through to the right person”
  • Driver – Key Issue
    • The customer wants a knowledgeable experienced adviser, and to put answered quickly
  • CTQ
    • Right First Time information
    • Speed of response – Average Speed of Answer (if there were more clues we could pinpoint the actual speed)
    • Number of abandoned calls (abandoned calls are key indicator of a customer waiting too long to be answered)
    • Understanding of customers full requirement – probing ability

Element 4 – Defining KPI’s

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are the key measures which show the performance of a process/organisation. In this respect we ensure that KPI’s are developed from what the customer defines as CTQ (Critical to Quality). (As we have begun with the contact centre example above)

KPI Trees are a method to visually show the range of KPI’s and how they connect with the process. The visual nature helps to ensure that a balance is provided and the CTQ’s requirements are covered.

This will also help to show where existing measures can be applied and where additional data may be required.



Performance Dialogues are a Lean tool to measure the organisation/team/process against meeting the customer commitments (defined from the above process). These work by ensuring visibility to everyone and that the team collectively decide and work on improving this performance.

Voice of the Customer (VoC) FAQ’S

Should all customers be treated the same?

The common view here maybe a resounding yes – but in reality that is seldom the case.

There are some circumstances when certain types of customers are not feasible for an organisation to deliver for – they perhaps can’t deliver the standard required for the price.

In other cases certain categories of customers deliver a far greater profit than others – so naturally that is where the focus should be.

Indeed it is not uncommon for organisations to ‘un-target’ a customer segmentation in favour of a more profitable business which can deliver the level of service required for the focused customer type.

How does Voice of the Customer relate to processes?

All processes should start and finish with the customer. Everyone within that process should understand how their contribution delivers for the customer and the profitability of the organisation.

The full | Lean A-Z Glossary

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