By: David Chung
Do your R&D teams analyze the voice of the customer (VOC) carefully during your product, service or business innovation process?
In reality, when your R&D teams ask your customers what they really want, they describe features, arrangements, or offers.
Unfortunately, the majority of the customers know only what they’ve experienced in the market or from your competitors and may not imagine what they don’t know. So they often suggest things that other firms already offer, which leads to “me-too” products.
Imagining the unimaginable is for R&D teams, not customers. To increase your teams’ creativity and innovation, ask customers for their desired experiences, not expected features, arrangements, or offers. Their answers will transform your team’s innovation from being serendipitous to being rigorously disciplined.
In addition to this mindset, the following practical 4D process will transform the VOC into business innovation.
Step 1: Discovering Customers’ Desired Experiences
To be successful, customer interviews that elicit desired experiences should be designed and defined.
Once you define the process, carefully select which customers will participate. It’s important to narrow interviewees to specific groups of people directly involved with your existing solutions rather than with single products or services. It’s also important to select the most diverse set of individuals within each customer type. The more diverse the group, the more complete the set of unique and specific customer experiences that will be captured.
Step 2: Defining Customers’ Desired Experiences
In this stage, your R&D team should let your customers distinguish between desired experiences and extra features (or arrangements). In addition, you should lead your customers to eliminate vague statements, anecdotes, and other irrelevant comments.
In addition, your R&D team should translate interviewees’ solution statements into desired experiences by asking why they want the stated situations. Have interviewees discuss each step in the use of the product or service: difficulties encountered, ideal scenarios, etc.
Once the interviews are complete, your R&D team should develop a comprehensive list of the collected desired experiences, removing duplicates and categorizing the desired experiences into groups that correspond to each step in the process.
Step 3: Determining the Value of Customers’ Desired Experiences
Once you have a categorized list of desired experiences, you must conduct a quantitative survey in which the desired experiences are rated by different types of customers. Survey participants should be asked to rate each desired experience in terms of its importance and the degree to which it is currently being satisfied.
The ratings should then be fed into a mathematical formula to reveal the relative attractiveness of each opportunity. In my experience, one of the most practical ways of prioritizing customers’ desired experiences is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Step 4: Diagnosing Returns on Customers’ Desired Experiences 
In the business world, all decisions should be evaluated by scientific figures or data. Thus, the final step entails using the relevant data to uncover opportunities for and returns on potential innovation, size of customer segmentation, and competitors.
Conclusion: A Prerequisite for Business Innovation
Other than my 4D approach, you are most welcome to use other approaches (e.g., 4A, 4B, 4C) as a framework for your business innovation process.
However, the most important point is that you should consider the VOC of your target market. In this way, you will be able to develop a profitable business.
All the best in your next business innovation!