Entering, not too long ago, in to the enterprise lexicon came the acronym VOC (voice of the customer) this to me is effectively a reskin of the old chestnut “Listening to your customer”. Wikipedia describes it as “the in-depth process of capturing customer’s expectations, preferences, and aversions” From my time as a management consultant I have always gone beyond the VOC, delving deeper into customers behavior. Perhaps I should coin MOC “Mind of the Customer” because as humans we tend to “Do” differently than we “Say”.

I must say it is always heartening to see any customer centered trends emerging in business, as our company has always pushed into the soft side of business. For anyone wishing to dive deeper into this “People First” business zeitgeist, I would highly recommend the book Firms of endearment. In the final analysis when we help others get what they desire and require we both benefit, if I may dust off an 80’s catchphrase it is a “Win, Win scenario”.

The problem is that so many companies at present are “Deaf to the Customer”. These companies are thick with draconian warranties and return policy’s that only serve their bottom line. It is a simple rule of human interaction, you need to give to get, so many seem to miss this simple reality.

As a management consultant with a 30-year tenure, I would say that the principle reason most companies die is that they failed to ask the right questions. Some companies will ask “why is it so hard to find good employees?” when the correct question is how do we become a company that organically attracts stellar humans with an enriching workplace and competitive remuneration? We will spend thousands of dollars on headhunters to find a key employee only to have them flee our marginal enterprise.

If we do ask the right question, we seem to miss the embedded answer. Homer Simpson asked, “Why do things that happen to stupid people keep happening to me?”. Understand the question you are asking; it often contains the answer.

We call customers demanding when we cannot make deadlines. We call customers unreasonable when they wish to return our faulty product. In medical device manufacturing and packaging, we are centered in “corrective and preventative actions”. We seek “root cause” analytics to better our processes that are governed by ISO and the FDA. So why then are we not evaluating the whole of our company with this intense eye to quality? It seems we are ok to ask, “why is our manufacturing process spitting out devices that are 1 micron too thick?” and yet not ask “why are our customer rating exceedingly low?”

Develop a plan of listening, the “What are they really asking (or saying)”  levels of listening that will glean the actionable steps to make your customers fall in love, it’s worthwhile.