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Hear That?

Category: Business By: Kathy Webster, Managing Editor Nov 8, 2021

Can you hear that? It’s the voice of your customer. Listen up!

Many manufacturers have programs designed to gain insights directly from their customers — often called Voice of Customer (VOC) programs. During a recent webinar presented by AMT – The Association for Manufacturing Technology, industry marketing experts explained VOC and offered practices to get the best information from customers.

What is VOC?
VOC is not just talking to customers. While any interaction with customers is good, true VOC efforts aim to drive innovation and help companies move to customer-oriented business models – in lieu of product-oriented approaches. So instead of just asking the customer what they want, VOC proposes that you ask the customer about their goals and desired outcomes. It is up to you to determine how you can help them realize those outcomes.

How do I conduct VOC research?
Listen. Leave your questions and your agenda at the door. When you are doing VOC research, you meet with customers and just listen. Your one and only question should be, “What challenges do you face?” After that, the customer’s answers should lead the discussion.

Where do I start?
Start by listening. Get comfortable with the idea of meeting with customers and not delivering a sales pitch or solving their problems. “I have two rules for doing VOC research: no selling and no solving,” explains Dave Loomis, president of Loomis Marketing, during the webinar. “That’s it. You have to make it about the customer, about listening and connecting. Go into a VOC meeting with honest curiosity and a notepad.”

Where do I finish?
Following up is just as important as listening. After a VOC meeting, follow up with the customer and tell them what you heard. It could be months or even years before a new product or process is developed to meet their concern, so stay in touch. Engage with customers on an ongoing basis and let them know that you understand their unmet needs (even if you can’t meet them right now).

Learn more about VOC and other unique ways to enhance your customer experience in AMT’s webinars. Register for upcoming events and view archived discussions online.

Common VOC Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Pitfall Example Best Strategy
PitfallLeading the witness Example“Do you like machine x?” (Too specific).
“Supply chain is a real issue for you, right?” (You are telling them what to say).
Best StrategyAsk open-ended questions and DON’T answer them or suggest potential answers.
PitfallGoing in with a list of questions Example“Here’s a list of the problems I know you have.” (Come into the meeting curious and prepared to learn, not prepared to show what you know or think you know). Best StrategyAsk only one question: “What are your challenges?” Then listen.
PitfallLooking for a common problem across customers Example“That’s just like what happened at X Company. We did this for them…” (Customers or prospects want to be seen as unique and important). Best StrategyEvery company is unique. There may be similar problems, but it is highly unlikely that there will be problems that are exactly the same. Don’t try to compare or fit customers into a category.
PitfallSelling Example“Our X product/solution can enhance productivity by 20 percent.”
“Take a look at this list of product features.”
“We have this amazing new product. Take a look.” (This is not a sales call).
Best StrategyDo not take in brochures or marketing materials. Do not give a presentation. Do not turn every question into a sales pitch.
PitfallSolving Example“We have the exact solution for that problem.” (This is not a sales call). Best StrategyMake your VOC meeting about listening and connecting, not about solving specific problems. Watch, observe, learn, and gather information. You can solve (and sell) later.
About the Author

As AMT’s Managing Editor, Kathy seeks out connections, builds relationships, and strives to learn more about the people of the manufacturing industry. A writer and editor with more than 25 years of experience on the topics of manufacturing, technology, architecture, art, and parenting, Kathy is an avid listener who is deeply curious.

Kathy is particularly interested in autonomous vehicles. Since she was a member of Team ENSCO in the 2004 and 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, she’s been enthralled with the progress of self-driving vehicles.

When she’s not writing or mingling at manufacturing industry events, Kathy is spending time with her husband and four children creating art, visiting museums, hiking, traveling, and entertaining friends and family. She does try to sneak in reading, yoga, Sudoku, and long walks with her dog, Meadow.

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