How Innovation Factors Into The “Voice of the Customer”

Henry Ford famously said “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” True innovators need to understand the Voice of the Customer (VOC) to know how to develop a product or service that will not just satisfy them, but will thrill them. Collecting VOC’s is not as simple as asking customers or potential customers, “what do you want?” The innovator needs to have a clear vision for their technology and how it will thrill customers before they engage with customers or prospects to collect VOC data. The innovator also needs to be able to articulate elements of the vision to customers or prospects, without giving away all their secretes. They need to test their reaction to the vision, in order to effectively determine meaningful VOC’s that can be used to determine specific product or service design requirements. Collecting VOC data is really about understanding customer’s and prospect’s aspirations and what they are trying to accomplish. The invention of the automobile was not just about transporting people from “Point A” to “Point B” faster or cheaper. It was about transforming a way of life making so many things possible that were not possible before it’s invention. When collecting VOC data for an innovative product or service concept, it is important to understand what possibilities the customer aspires to that are currently unavailable and will transform their lives to be much better. After analyzing the VOC data, the thrill factors should become evident and meaningful VOC’s can be devised to inform a successful design. Additionally, this needs to be done with the future in mind, not the present. The VOC’s must reflect the time when the product or service are introduced, and well beyond, to lead the competition for years to come.

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