The Voice of the Customer Series (1/4): The Basics

The voice of the customer model provides a detailed framework for efficiently uncovering and understanding your customers’ core needs. This is an invaluable tool as part of your customer development arsenal, en route to finding product / market fit. In this series we evaluate this model in detail.

Gathering and analyzing qualitative feedback

The material for this blog mainly comes from challenges that I’ve personally encountered, and then have either found, or derived, a small framework to help structure and tackle those issues.

This series of posts addresses one of the most common challenges with the customer development process — how to collect, analyze, and act on customer feedback, especially when data is sparse and/or qualitative. In these scenarios, traditional A/B tests, and other such experiments, designed to yield statistically relevant results, simply do not apply.

In revisiting this issue for a recent project, I dug up my old-b-school notes, and found a hidden gem: The Voice of the Customer Model. This model is specifically designed to help synthesize qualitative feedback, which should help make your customer development efforts much more efficient and effective.

Basics of the “Voice of the Customer” model

The underlying academic paper, as well as books developed from it, present this essential framework for generating data from qualitative sources that help set marketing strategy and tactics.

The basic idea is your “4Ps” of marketing require real data on who your customers are and what they want. The Voice of the Customer (VOC) describes methods for capturing customer requirements, organizing them into a hierarchical structure, determining which ones to address, and focusing outreach efforts. The process consists of the following stages.

1) Customer Needs: The explicit, and latent, needs that the customer has to solve his problem

2) Need Hierarchy: A hierarchical structure applied to the customer needs, broken down into 3 components.

  • Primary needs that help to / strategic direction for marketing
  • Secondary needs that expand upon each primary need, specifying the tactical approach to satisfy the corresponding primary (strategic) need
  • Tertiary needs that provide operational guidance to engineering for what to build, or marketing on how to message

3) Priorities: Provide a relative ranking of the needs to help organize and align development efforts

Looking Ahead

In the next few posts we’ll analyze the Voice of the Customer (VOC) model along each of these dimensions:

Part II: Gathering Data

Part III: Structuring Needs

Part IV: Prioritizing Needs

I’ll fill in the links as I complete each post, so that this one can serve as a launching point for the series.


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