What Does the Customer Value? - Six Sigma

Customer requirement gathering is often regarded as an unfortunate necessity. This may account for the half - hearted way in which many organizations approach the task. It will often be out - sourced to market research companies, for example. Listening to your customers is probably the single most important thing you can do as an organization, you should take the opportunity to get as many of your people as possible face to face with the customer. Especially people like designers.

Often we take a very uninspired questionnaire based approach, where people are asked what they want from a product or service. This may well be fine for generating ‘spoken performance’ requirements, but is unlikely to provide insights into ‘basic’ or ‘excitement’ features. Be creative; engage with your customer in more direct ways. Send designers to where the customer is.

If you design taxi cabs, send engineers to take rides in cabs and talk to drivers about what it’s like to use your product, as LTi Car bodies did. Rubbermaid’s ‘Customer Encounters’ programme put engineers in commercial and domestic kitchens to observe their products being used.

There is no single answer to the best way of gathering customer requirements, this section, and the one preceding it are designed to give a couple of examples, but mostly to alert the reader to the need for careful consideration of this area. In particular, as we saw in chapter customer expectations are complex, and expressed only partially; the Kano model (Kano, 1984) shows that some elements are likely to be unexpressed by the customer. In fact there are several types of quality characteristic which can be established:

  1. Attractive (A) - Equivalent to excitement Quality in the diagram
  2. One-Dimensional (O) - Equivalent to Spoken Performance in the diagram
  3. Must-be (M) - Equivalent to Basic Quality in the diagram
  4. Indifferent (I) - Shown by blue circle
  5. Reverse (R) - Shown by red line

Indifferent is where customers don’t really mind if they have the requirement or not; reverse is where they prefer not to have it.

The modiied Kano model of quality (adapted from Lee et al, 2011)

Requirements can be categorized by asking customers how they feel about the presence of a feature and the how they feel about its absence. Table below shows how to interpret results:

TableKano evaluation sheet (Lee et al, 2011)

Dependent upon the results the requirement is categorized into one of the 5 categories or Questionable to indicate where the customer appears to like both presence and absence. This allows the team to understand not only what the customer wants, but what kind of requirement they are. This allows for a much more subtle understanding of requirements. This may not be necessary for projects where requirements are clear but is helpful when the situation is more complex. As the box shows, though, even seemingly simple situations can be complex.


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