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1.3 Develop VOC Models

The Voice-of-Customer process is used to capture the requirements and/or feedback from customers (internal or external) to provide them with the best-in-class service or product quality. This process is all about being proactive and constantly innovative in order to capture the changing requirements of customers over time. The second step in the robust design process is to begin to develop VOC models. The following are several key requirements and inputs of a Voice-of-Customer model:

  • Perceived result
  • Customer intent
  • Customer and engineering metrics
  • Intended function
  • Response criteria

Customer requirements are the starting point for determining what to measure in an experiment. But, customer performance metrics are sometimes vague, usually subjective, and typically expressed in nontechnical terms. So, to produce quality products, the engineer must translate customer performance metrics into measurable, objective engineering metrics (Figure 1-2).

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Figure 1-2 Establish Voice-of-Customer models.

For example, the VOCs convey to the engineer what customers want and how they perceive what they actually get. The Voice-of-Customer model is the engineers' interpretation, in engineering terms and functions, of customers' perceived result. But the perceived result is a subjective perception of what customers get from the product. Together, these represent the customer's world. When the perceived result doesn't match her or his voice, the customer is disappointed.

Traditionally, the mismatch between the voice of the customer and the perceived result has been addressed by attempting to "solve the problem" when it becomes evident. It would be preferable, however, to anticipate customers' expectations and design products to meet them proactively.

The term Voice-of-Customer is used to describe the stated and unstated needs or requirements of the customer, and there are a variety of ways to capture VOCs:

  • Direct discussion or interviews
  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Customer specifications
  • Observation
  • Warranty data
  • Field reports
  • Complaint logs
  • And so on ...

To design robust products, the engineer must determine which system or subsystem to study and establish technical metrics that quantify the system's ability to satisfy the VOC. The Voice-of-Customer model ultimately determines what is critical to quality—the focus of the next section.

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