In modern business, “customer is king” is a well-accepted principle. As a result, capturing the “voice of the customer” (VoC) to inform product and service offerings has become a mandate for most companies.
Forrester Research confirms that within the past few years more than half (55 percent) of firms have established a VoC program, while another 25 percent are planning to establish one in the next 12 months.
In simple terms, VoC is the market research process of capturing a customer’s expectations, preferences and aversions to define customer wants and needs, and then acting on those insights with new products, features and specifications. However, the same Forrester report found that only 39 percent of VoC programs were actually delivering financial results.
Why the disconnect? Shouldn’t the customer’s voice tell us exactly what we need to do to improve our products and services? Maybe not.
The customer is not always right. It is notably difficult to understand behaviors and preferences of customers just by asking them. New Coke is unfortunately one of many examples. Also, market environments are rapidly changing, while the development of surveys, collection of quantitative and qualitative customer inputs, and analysis require ample time and money.
The customer has only half the story. Until recently, once a product left the factory and entered the longest period of its lifecycle—its “use phase”—the manufacturer lost sight of it. However, products have evolved from purely physical components to complex systems combining processors, sensors, and software that are now connected to the Internet of Things. Products themselves can now communicate with the manufacturer during the use phase.
While most companies work to optimize their VoC programs with customer relationship management (CRM) tools, it will not be sufficient. What is required is a fundamental transformation, from talking to the customer about your product, to talking to your product about the customer. The winners in this smart, connected world will be those who understand how to capture, analyze and capitalize on the voice of the product.
Smart, connected products in the Internet of Things enable these opportunities for manufacturers and their customers. New business applications monitor the product condition, operation and environment in real-time to identify product defects, usage patterns, and service opportunities.
This shift from talking to the customer about your products, to talking to your products about the customer will require new skills, infrastructure, and cultural norms. Organizations will need a voice of the product (VoP) program and product relationship management (PRM) tools to proactively manage their products.
For manufacturers that transform to capture this opportunity, the results will be improved customer experience, customer intimacy, and financial performance.