How do your customers feel about your product? What innovation would make your product a real game-changer? What is preventing the product from being truly excellent?

These questions are extremely important for any business looking to innovate. We’ve already explained that the most effective way to find answers is through a process called Voice of the Customer.

Here we investigate the tools and methods used to gain insight into the Voice of the Customer.


Although this method is not especially popular, it is ranked #1 in effectiveness. Ethnography consists of hanging out with the customers and watching them use the products for a long period of time. When a VoC team spends a lot of time watching the product in action, it can get a real sense of what works and what doesn’t. This kind of deep knowledge is extremely effective, but gathering it is unfortunately time consuming and expensive.

Consumer-visit teams

In this method, VoC teams meet with customers and ask them specific questions in an interview setting. This is best accomplished with employees of the company doing the interviews themselves. Usually a team of three is involved, with representatives from technical, sales and marketing. In order for the interviews to be successful, questions should be indirect, so the interviewees can offer insight into their wants and needs.

Focus groups

A focus group moderator skillfully directs customers to talk about their problems, points of pain and wants. Group discussions can generate more creative and provocative ideas than an interview. But the moderator must be careful not to allow one dominant personality to sway the opinions of the others in the group. In fact, the success of this Voice of Customer method is very much dependent on the skill of the moderator.

Lead user analysis

Innovative users are identified and invited to a workshop or retreat in which they point out problems and potential solutions. This method is both popular and effective. The main challenge is finding these “lead users.” A customer survey which includes the question, “Have you modified the product in any way?” can help identify innovative consumers.


A group of customers is first directed to brainstorm all the problem areas of the product. Then they are directed to come up with as many solutions as possible. This method is recommended for business to business (B2B) markets.

Online community

Setting up and maintaining an online community devoted to discussing the product is fairly inexpensive. Monitoring the discussions can glean useful insights for developing new products, but a proper analysis of the conversations does require skill. This type of VoC will only work for products that customers get excited about and want to talk about.

Whichever method you choose for gleaning Voice of the Customer, it should be geared toward your specific industry. In our next blog post, we will address the issue of VoC for the healthcare industry.

Patrick Sirois

At Triode, we specialize in developing new products and services for complex industries like medical devices and transportation. We work with you closely to help define product strategy, with an emphasis on reducing the risks associated with innovating in these sophisticated and often regulated consumer-oriented environments.