Learn to Identify Global Customer Needs with Six Sigma
When it comes to customer research, surveys and formulas only get developers so far. Six Sigma offers a novel way of exploring and solving problems with the customer in mind. Discover how you can diagnose and identify global customer needs leading to process improvement, a positive for both developers and consumers.
What is Six Sigma?
The cornerstone of this methodology is a customer-focused mindset. Its overall goal is eliminating defects through rigorous data analysis, according to Process Excellence Network. It’s a process applied to both manufacturing and customer service industries, a streamlined process that aims to identify global customer needs.
Gleaned from a six standard deviation process concept, its name literally means a 99.9 percent perfect process. Individuals who undergo training can earn “belts” that signify the level of skill achieved. Whether you plan to become certified or not, it’s worth investigating the steps to the process in the interest of more effectively interpreting consumer behavior and needs.
What’s Involved with this Method?
The method involves two different approaches, DMAIC and DMADV. Process Excellence Network explains that each applies to a unique situation.
DMAIC serves to modify existing processes to eliminate or reduce defects:
- Define the problem
- Measure how things are going
- Analyze the problem or process
- Improve the situation through problem solving
- Control outcomes by maintaining new standard
DMADV is for developing new processes to meet prescribed goals:
- Define the customer requirements for a product or service
- Measure the characteristics required
- Analyze high-level process solutions and choose the best one
- Design the new process
- Verify the effectiveness of the design
These clearly defined steps address diagnosing and analyzing customer challenges and development of solutions within a straightforward framework.
How Will Six Sigma Help Your Business?
Based on Process Excellence Network’s explanation of the process, a collective commitment to customer service serves the system well. If you frequently run into problems of unknown origin, the steps above may help define the problem and serve to develop solutions.
A case study from Micon showed how one call center used results of a customer feedback survey to define and implement improvements. Thousands of customers received feedback questionnaires, and results were averaged and broadcast to relevant departments.
The team identified possible inputs that could affect customer satisfaction, narrowing the list to 20 questions to pose to consumers. Responses to the refined customer surveys highlighted areas of customer satisfaction that needed improvement. In addition to a defined path toward increased customer needs fulfillment, the survey results also inspired further focused projects with the same goal.
Beyond defining ways to achieve higher service ratings, the call center data also gave the human resources department pointers for fund allocation. Specific training based on the survey results addressed the company’s defined objectives. Ultimately, customer experience satisfaction increased by five percent after six months with the new processes, with the expectation of higher levels once all projects conclude.
What are the Global Implications?
It’s difficult to identify global customer needs without a consistent and comprehensive form of measurement. This approach utilizes critical thinking and analytic strategies to glean customer data, then utilize it for process improvement.
As the Process Excellence Network’s commentary on the emerging global market reminds us, quality is the top-ranking measure of a brand. To deliver quality to customers in any industry, listening to the voice of the customer is the first step. Establishing standards, and fulfilling them, depends not just on filtering through customer feedback, but an intrinsic motivation toward meeting their needs.
While the focus of the methodology is to identify global customer needs and increase customer satisfaction, the financial benefits are a welcome side effect. According to claims from industry leaders, the process has earned businesses hundreds of millions of dollars because of reducing costs and attracting more customers.
In its guide to implementing Lean Six Sigma, the IBM Institute for Business Value notes that companies who use this approach become more focused on customer needs and data-based facts rather than theories about how and why processes aren’t working.
One of IBM’s keystone examples of program success is Caterpillar, a company which adopted Six Sigma guidelines and transitioned over 72,000 employees. Across six continents and 27 different business units, Caterpillar embarked on a lengthy training endeavor to refresh its employees’ commitment to customer satisfaction and introduce forward-thinking business plans.
If Caterpillar’s success is any indication, with benefits far exceeding the costs of implementation, even small businesses will do well to follow this emerging trend. Higher profits, higher customer satisfaction, and a committed employee base with an innovative approach to everyday business creates the ideal setting for global growth.
Collaborative team development helped Caterpillar surpass its financial and organizational goals, evidence that these strategies work not only on a small scale, as in the call center example. Wide-reaching benefits throughout the entire business model give a globally oriented view, key to international business expansion.