Applied Marketing Science Principal John Mitchell Authors Article in iSixSigma Magazine

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John C. Mitchell, a Principal of Applied Marketing Science, has authored the article "Is VOC Killing Innovation?", which was published in the January/February issue of iSixSigma magazine. In the article, Mitchell confronts critics of Voice of the Customer, arguing that "people who think that VOC stifles innovation either do not understand the meaning and purpose of it, or do not know how and when to use it." He then examines three common mistakes made by those who either fail in their Voice of the Customer efforts or who do not even attempt them.

people who think that VOC stifles innovation either do not understand the meaning and purpose of it, or do not know how and when to use it.

John C. Mitchell, a Principal of Applied Marketing Science, has authored the article "Is VOC Killing Innovation?", which was published in the January/February issue of iSixSigma magazine. In the article, Mitchell confronts critics of Voice of the Customer, arguing that "people who think that VOC stifles innovation either do not understand the meaning and purpose of it, or do not know how and when to use it." He then examines three common mistakes made by those who either fail in their Voice of the Customer efforts or who do not even attempt them:

Mistake #1: Misdefining the Voice of the Customer
Mitchell asserts that many companies "affix the Voice of the Customer label to nearly everything even remotely tied to customer information and feedback." According to the 1993 Marketing Science article "The Voice of the Customer," this type of market research is narrowly defined as delivering a set of customer wants and needs that is 1) complete; 2) expressed in the customer's own language; 3) organized into a hierarchy; and 4) prioritized by customers based on importance and current satisfaction. At its core, according to Mitchell, Voice of the Customer has always been about identifying, organizing and prioritizing customer needs.

Mistake #2: Asking Customers for Solutions
Some approach Voice of the Customer research by directly asking customers what they want and need in their new products. True Voice of the Customer, however, goes much deeper than asking customers about features, solutions, and specifications. To properly tease out these needs, good VOC researchers employ an indirect questioning approach, employing a mix of open-ended, probing questions, customer storytelling, and ethnographic observation. The objective of the process, argues Mitchell, is not to figure out what features want, but why they want those features.

Mistake #3: Putting First Things Last
Some companies make the mistake of collecting Voice of the Customer information after a product has already been developed in order to confirm that it meets customer needs. This type of "validation approach" tends to bias research teams toward results that favor the product already developed. Keeping Voice of the Customer as part of the fuzzy front end of new product development, concludes Mitchell, ensures that innovation is directed toward solving important, unmet customer needs.

About the Author
John C. Mitchell, a Principal of Applied Marketing Science, has managed several large-scale VOC engagements, as well as projects involving ideation and concept testing. He also has trained and coached dozens of AMS clients in creating and implementing in-house Voice of the Customer programs, with particular focus on using VOC within the Design for Six Sigma (DfSS) framework. John holds an AB from Harvard College, and an MBA in management and finance from New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business.

About Applied Marketing Science

Applied Marketing Science, founded in 1989 with roots in the MIT Sloan School, is a leading new product development consulting firm with cross-industry expertise and global capabilities. AMS applies proven methodologies to gather and interpret the Voice of the Customer, develop technical specifications from customer needs, facilitate brainstorming and idea generation, and test new product concepts. The firm has helped hundreds of clients in a broad range of industries discover new insights about their customers, through market research, consulting and training.

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