Do you perform Voice of Customer (VOC) meetings during the early stages of the Product Development cycle? If so, you can be leading your efforts astray without even knowing it.
The typical VOC effort is heavy on interviews with “key contributors” at your leading customers. Don’t get me wrong, the input from these constituents is very important to the success of your product. Without their input and support, the product could languish for years with poor sales and high support costs. However, these are not the only insights and data you should be gathering.
The methods and questions used during these interviews/meetings are critical in the process. The amount of care taken while creating these questions will be reflected in the quality and usefulness of the answers. If your questions are designed to provide answers supporting your or your company’s agenda, then these questions are not valid. They are invalid because they do not provide you with unbiased market data.
The most efficacious manner is to ask truly open and honest questions about the customer’s needs, wants, and problems to solve. Probe the interviewee with “why” questions to get to the true root of the problems to solve or innovation to provide.
Verify the answers given to your questions with direct observation of the opportunities discussed. Verify, as much as possible, that the answers provided match your observations. Where there is a mismatch, inquire about the discontinuity until the cause is uncovered.
Voice of Customer data collection and the synthesis of these data is the cornerstone of successful product development. Make sure your questions are honest and are not designed to provide the answers you desire. Then, follow the interviews with direct observation to ensure the honesty of your questioning and the accuracy of the customers’ recitation of their reality.
As in constructing the foundation of a building, if the cornerstone is not set properly, the building will collapse.