Voice of Customer (VOC): What Does it Mean?

Voice of Customer (VOC): What Does it Mean?

Most companies have some type of VOC program in place. Many programs fall short of delivering measurable value. This failure often lies at the definition level of VOC. But how do you actually define it?

VOC - Common Definition

The most common definition is Capture Customer Expectations. From this definition, multiple methods to gather information are processed. Some common methods are market research, focus groups, surveys, verbal communication, e -mails, service agreement documents, and data reports. Yes, these methods may be helpful in Capturing information and some expectations. But are they enough to drive improvement activity? Do we really understand where the information is sourced, how it is gathered, and what the information is really telling us?

VOC - Functional Definition

In collaboration with our customer, we found another, functional definition: understanding the needs of the customer at the transactional level – a.k.a. the Gemba, or where the work is done. This definition is seemingly simple but has more meaning when we seek to Understand as opposed to only Capture information. Further, we found to truly understand the VOC we had to gather information at the point where the product was delivered.

To obtain the functional VOC, go to the customer site and walk in their shoes. We did as such and began to really understand their voice and needs. The key success factors to achieving a productive VOC process include:

  • Standard Work – Go to the customer site with a purpose and planned process. Do it on a repetitive basis. We worked with our customer to go on-site and record their needs with a 30-day plan. The short term plan for on-site VOC process was so successful, the on-site process continued for six months and on.
  • Talk to the Customer – Listen and functionally understand the voice of the people who do the day-to-day work with the product.
  • Real Time Corrective Action – Be prepared to do more than record information. Our process includes taking immediate action with the VOC needs. Fix the problem today!
  • Report VOC Daily – A standard format report with details is critical to success. Success means driving improvement activity every day. Waiting to report until the end of the month or even the week is too late.
  • Manage the Data – The VOC data collected at the transactional level will tell a story daily and over time. Pareto and trend charts help prioritize improvement actions.


The chart below is actual data measuring errors delivered over the past four months by processing VOC at the transactional level. The scope of service for this illustration is sequencing production parts to mixed model white goods assembly lines. The downward trend is the result the customer expects, needs, and deserves.

Total Errors Graph

Improve your VOC process. Go to the Gemba!

Written by Mark Wheeler, Lean Deployment Executive at LeanCor

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Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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