What are your customers saying today? Sure, everyone wants a lower price. In all likelihood, they have very specific needs due to changes in their environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve all made changes, pivots, as a result of the pandemic but Simon Sinek is clear, “It is not about you. It is about them.” In his discussion with John Maxwell, he shares that you shouldn’t pivot based on what has happened to you. Instead, pivot toward the needs of customers.

It is easy to dismiss this idea. Your organization has immediate problems itself such as lost revenue along with the barriers to meeting state guidelines (hand sanitizer, masks, distancing, etc.). Shouldn’t you focus on your own issues?

The reality is businesses can grow during an economic downturn. Customers are key to growth. Soren Kaplan shares that, “Listening to customers is the first step in determining what will keep them loyal and help you get new ones coming in the door. This remains especially true as economic conditions improve, since customers' priorities and mindsets themselves may have fundamentally changed because of the economic circumstances.”

A crisis such as the pandemic can cause fundamental changes from your customers’ perspective. Relentless focus on the customer is one of the three key fundamentals in Lean Six Sigma. Listen to the “Voice of the Customer” to capture changes in their needs.

What is this “Voice of The Customer?” Let’s SIMPLIFY this concept and create a framework of three steps to ACHIEVE pivot(s) that prevent you from losing customers.

WHAT IS THE VOICE OF THE CUSTOMER?

Here is an example inspired by a recent story Rachel Thalmann shared. A customer arrives at a car dealership and explains they would like to purchase a used GMC Acadia, a mid-size SUV. The salesperson leaves the show room and returns with a brand new GMC Yukon, a luxury full-size SUV, for the customer to test drive. Did the salesperson truly listen? One could argue they presented the customer with an SUV manufactured by GMC. One could even argue they presented the customer with a “better” choice. Think about what the customer said.

The Voice of the Customer is (1) a “detailed understanding of the customer’s requirements” (2) in a common language (Gaskin et al.). The salesperson in this example did not meet the customer’s requirements. The table below displays differences in common language. One foot longer, four miles less per gallon, and costs nearly $20,000 more seem substantially different.

Table Comparing Length, MPG, & MSRP for vehicles described

What do you use to capture these specific requirements? Bill Gates says, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Don’t simply dismiss complaints because “there will always be unhappy people” or “this pandemic will blow over.” Instead, embrace feedback to drive improvement and growth.

Mike Fedotowsky at Maximum Potential defines two approaches for capturing the Voice of the Customer. Complaints, technical support calls, and warranty claims are examples of “reactive” methods to measure it. “Proactive” methods include surveys, focus groups, and direct observations. The first step is to collect the Voice of the Customer using these approaches.

WHAT DO I DO WITH IT?

After you collect the Voice of the Customer, there are two more steps: (1) measure your performance and (2) evaluate it.

These three questions provide you with a basic evaluation:

  1. Are my processes meeting customer needs?
  2. How frequently do they meet their needs?
  3. How well do they meet their needs?

If any of the answers are less than 100%, then you have customers that will seek out alternatives to your products and services. You need to improve your processes and your system. Lean Six Sigma is a proven methodology to listen to the voice of the customer and improve processes to achieve better results for customers.

Click here to schedule a free session to guide you through the three steps to prevent you from losing customers.