“How can VoC work for micro-firms?”
– Thanks for the inspiration Kieron 😉 –
Dr. Cooper a celebrated author and co-founder of the ‘State-Gate Product Innovation Process Model, in 2010 produced an article which appeared in ‘Marketing Management Magazine‘ entitled ‘Voice-of-customer’ methods – What is the best source of new product ideas?’ (Cooper & Dreher, 2010).
The article compares eight ‘Voice of Customer’ (VoC) methods surveyed and all of which have been judged by there users in the survey to be most effective, including:
- Ethnographic Research (aka “Camping Out”)
- Customer Embedded in Design Process
- Customer Participation in Brainstorming
- Customer Advisory Boards
- Community of Enthusiasts
- Lead User Analysis
- Customer Visit Teams
- Focus Groups
Many of the above maybe practised by SME’s, Enterprise and Corporations, but perhaps not so practised by micro enterprise’s who often lack access to the knowledge, finance, time, resources or skills to carry out such activities.
Cooper & Dreher 2010
Note: More about what Cooper’s Study may also be suggesting in a future post.
Micro enterprises (MEs) who make up over 90% of all enterprises in Europe are of special personal interest to me ( See: Read More ). ME’s form the basis for my ‘Lean Innovation’ research masters thesis, I hope to begin later this summer. In my research I will seek out those practical systematic processes of animating good lean innovation project management approaches to innovate growth in ME’s.
SME’s in Europe
And so, I continue my personal search which began in 2013 for the holy grail (aka “How Can Innovation Work For Micro-Firms?”). This search continues for a simple practical systematic approach which can easily be applied for both commercial gain and social value.
(End of Sidebar)
Is Cooper’s study suggesting the possible answers?
Using a simple approach to innovating growth within new and existing very small (less than 10 employees) businesses and people-before-profit enterprises is widely written about but has ignited little commercial interest outside the existing academic research.
As Kieron suggested in his article, opening a channel of communications directly with customers is indeed a most valued and proven approach. Despite the core question of this post perhaps appearing a little silly at first, often micro firms can be straining to hear the ‘Voice of the Customer’ (VoC). It can become drowned out by the white noise of our own bias. Favouring instead our own inner voice which acts as a hearing impediment blocking the true voice of the customer from being heard and interpreted correctly. Henry Ford (“a faster horse”) and Steve Jobs (“never listen to customers”) may have had a better understanding of customer needs. For some, however it can be an uphill battle in search for alternative simple and practical ideas.
Honing your active listening skills to avoid misinterpreting what customers are telling you can be a difficult skill to master. Overcoming barriers in order to practise more progressive methods like ‘ethnography’ may not be a practical or effective option for many owner managers according to limited research on this topic. This appears to be confirmed in my own limited research which suggests that over 11% of micro firms just cant find the time for such activities.
Looking again (See above) at each of the eight methods Cooper compared, will the list was not intended to be comprehensive or complete, I just wondered if others could add their successful experience’s, insights and ideas in relation to …
“How Can VoC Work For Micro-Firms?” … utilising simple practical systematic methods easily executed within the context of Irish micro-enterprises?
I’d very much welcome any insights readers would be willing to share