The main objective for this phase is to describe in more detail who the target customers are and what exactly makes them happy. This entails translating a high level Voice-of-the-Customer (VoC) into very specific system requirements or end product specifications. Deriving the system requirements is an essential step to design products that really match the need of the customer. In many R&D projects this translation is done too quickly which results in jumping to solutions. Usually the benefits briefed by marketing are high-level formulations of customer needs. These needs can be fulfilled in several ways. Not all of these ways will give the same customer satisfaction. For example, several mobile phone manufacturers go for the same benefits with their latest smart-phone models , but they are not equally successful. Jumping too quickly to product-solutions may lead to missed opportunities for customer satisfaction.
Input for this phase is provided by Marketing: a briefing which at least contains the target group and the value proposition – benefits, customer insights and competition. This phase should be executed by Marketing and R&D in close cooperation, because translating the high level benefits to system requirements is making choices all the time. Marketing knows the customer insights, i.e. deep understanding why the target group likes these benefits, and R&D knows which technical possibilities are available.
The Identify phase starts to describe the target group in more detail. The reason is simple: the better the description of the target group, the better the customer insights, the better the proposition of the product to be innovated, the higher the customer satisfaction in the end.
Voice of the Customer Tree
By means of a so called Voice of the Customer tree (VoC tree), the high level benefits, as formulated by marketing, are translated into specific system requirements.
As a first step this is done qualitatively by zooming in step by step: from benefits and discriminators to reasons to believe, to functional needs, to detailed functional needs and finally to system requirements. At every step the product specification becomes more concrete.
Second step is making trade-offs using a quantification of the VoC tree. The relations between system requirements and the high level benefits can be quantified. This requires experimental studies in which customers are involved. In this way the specifications for the end-product are anchored to the real target group. Moreover it sets the trade-off, in other words setting priorities between the end-product parameters. Marketing usually wants all parameter at maximal performance. Frequently this is technically not possible and hence trade-offs must be made. As stated before, these trade-offs should be based on real customer preferences.
In summary, VoC captures target customer’s feedback about their experiences with and expectations for the products or services. System requirements derived from these customer needs via the VoC tree are also called Critical-to-Quality (CTQ) in DfSS terminology.
The last step in the Identify phase is the smart, specific formulation of the system requirements (CTQ’s). This is not only a list of parameter names with target values plus lower and/or upper specification limits. It also contains a quality level i.e. a capability measure like Cpk or ppm-level to specify the amount of non-conforming products, as well as measurement methods and test plans to validate the product performance
Structuring and quantifying are core competences of CQM. They are essential for making a VoC tree. Quantifying the relation of the product specifications to the mostly latent customer needs is more difficult to investigate than most people think. In order to draw valid conclusions it requires a solid test plan and selection of users in the tests. The difficulty may be illustrated by the observation that, for many newly launched products, the realization of the sales figures differs quite a lot from the predictions based on the marketing studies which are carried out before the launch.
In order to facilitate the Identify phase, CQM developed a template for the VoC tree. See more at: /free-templates.
Simple software for Measurement System Evaluations is available in Excel with the add_in CQM_EfP, see more at: /cqm_efp.