One of the training offerings we have at CC Pace is the "Lean Six Sigma Interactive Orientation". In this one-day interactive training program we introduce participants to the concepts of Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma Quality and how these tools can be applied to their.
As one of the trainers in this program I find the most interesting part to be the one which focuses on the Voice Of The Customer (VOC). VOC is the driving force behind any business process improvement initiatives. If you have read my post "Supply Chain Management: Who are your customers?" then you may be familiar with the differences between internal & external customers to a business process.
In one of the exercises we conduct in our orientation we ask participants to imagine they owned a restaurant and to list the things they would want to know about the restaurant if they were gone for a week. We then have them reverse their role and list their expectations from the restaurant as potential diners.
This theoretical exercise demonstrates the disparity between our expectations and customers and the things that are typical priorities to the businesses we visit. In our training I often see lists that have little correlation to each other: the owner is interested in financial performance, number of diners, number of reservations, wasted food, etc. The diners are more interested in food quality, ambience, service and efficiency.
Motorola and GE, the de-facto powerhouses of quality, had come to recognize that Six Sigma process improvement projects must be preceeded by a determination of the VOC or "What are the key process characteristics that are important to my customers?". Without understanding the VOC, you may go on investing significant effort and capital to improve something your customer does not care about.
QSR Magazine is the leading Quick Service Restaurants industry publication. Each year they review the performance of drive-thru establishments (such as McDonalds, Burger King, Dominos, etc) and publish them on the QSR homepage. The QSR 2006 survey had some suprizing results and serves as a great lesson in listening to your customers. During the survey they asked quick-serve consumers what they value most in the drive-thru. Next they posed a comparable set of questions to quick-serve companies. Here are the surprising results of the two surveys:
1. Order accuracy 86%
2. Easy-to-read menuboard 79%
3. Customer service 77%
4. Speed of service 74%
5. Length of the line 71%
6. Menu variety 52%
7. Hours of service 47%
8. Drive-thru appearance 41%
9. Credit/debit card acceptance 28%
No answer 1%
1. Order accuracy 85.2%
2. Speed of service 81.5%
3. Menuboard readability 66.7%
4. Customer service 59.3%
5. Length of the wait 55.6%
6. Credit Card acceptance 48.1%
7. Menu variety 44.4%
8. Clarity of audio/speakers 33.3%
9. Hours of service 11.1%
10. Wireless payment options 3.7%
Though both Consumers and industry value order accuracy that is where the similarities end. Consumers ranked easy-to-read menuboard as #2 (77%) while industry ranked it #3 and only 67% of industry has launched menuboard improvement efforts to drive sales.
Consumers ranked speed of service as #4 while industry ranked it #2; Industry ranked length of wait #4 while consumers ranked it #5.
When a business does not properly understand what is truly important to the customer, there is a potential for misplaced investments. In this case efforts to reduce the length of wait at the drive-thru are costly since they require drastic changes to the way the line is configured. However the industry would be better served by the less-costly improvement of the menuboards.
By listening to what your customers care about, you will find the your improvement efforts are better focused and yield better return in the one thing that is the most important factor in driving new business:
The overall value that you deliver to your customer.
It is the customer experience, the cost of your product and the value of your service that must be all factored in to your improvement initiatives. So make sure you properly collect the VOC before you put your hard earned money into lower priority efforts.