How can I capture the voice of the customer?

March 2001 Quick Tip

Our 20 October 2000 Quick Tip “How do I hear the voice of the customer as I develop a new product?” dealt with “hearing” the voice of the customer. Having “heard” this voice, the next question is how we can capture it in a way that continues to guide us as we develop our new product.

The conventional wisdom here is to use a technique called QFD (quality function deployment). However, our experience has been that QFD can easily consume inordinate amounts of time and resources.

Alan Cooper suggests an alternative: personas. A persona is a carefully crafted composite description of a certain class of a user. You may have several personas for your product, but each comes directly from your detailed customer research, and together, they encompass most of your anticipated user base.

To render a persona real, its description includes a photo of the individual and a description of his or her idiosyncrasies. For specific examples of personas, see our review of Cooper’s book.

Once you have captured your principal users in a persona, you simply design your product to satisfy this persona. If you have done a good job of building your personas, your product will satisfy the needs of your principal persona and not alienate any of your other personas.

Note that this is a far different approach than the more common one of designing a product to provide all of the features that competitors provide — which doesn’t assure that any users will be happy. Furthermore, copying competitive features is a prescription for being a follower!

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.