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Case Studies

Ethnography and Participatory Design:
Bridging the Gap Between Customer Voice and Impact with Product Development

Anne Cohen Kiel
Senior Design Anthropologist
Customer Design Center
Microsoft Corporation

Historically, there are repeated examples of how technologies are created for the sake of technology but not with ‘real” people in mind.  One of the main goals of ethnographers is to understand the people using products from their own perspective (emic) instead of from a company’s perspective (etic). Ethnographers observe and experience the world of technology in people’s own environments, where the activities they are tasked with have meaning and a direct impact on their daily lives. By translating what is observed back to product teams – features are only added if they are meaningful (and will actually be used) in the “real world” with “real people”. This process can also often impact overall company and marketing strategies. In essence, ethnographers  are able to bring the voice of real people into the entire product development cycle.

Ms. Cohen will provide key strategies and methods to incorporate ethnographic research into each phase of product development.  In addition, she will highlight several case examples of Microsoft’s use of field research to bridge the gap between the customer voice and impact during the product development cycle.

Creating Innovative Automotive Product Concepts with the Voice of the Customer

Rachel Nguyen
Senior Manager
Advanced Planning & Strategy

Nissan North America

A recent product revival has significantly contributed to the dramatic turnaround of the Nissan Motor Corporation.  In the US, several new products have received many accolades from both the media and new customers.  These products include the Nissan Altima, the Nissan Murano, the Nissan 350Z, the Nissan Titan, the Infiniti G35 coupe and sedan, and the Infiniti FX45.  With the goal of creating breakthrough products, Nissan has focused its efforts on customer-driven new product development processes.

This presentation will discuss the role of the “Voice of the Customer” in the initial concept phases of Nissan’s new product development in the United States, namely the exploratory and advanced planning phases.

Key Learnings:

  • Understanding the importance of a strategic customer target
  • How to conduct effective unmet needs surveys and ethnographic research
  • How to evolve research approaches to align with product strategy
  • The critical execution role of Advanced Product Planners

Converging VOC Methodologies to Create an Optimal Enterprise Customer Web-Site Experience

Tom Graefe
Lead Human Factors Principal
Craig Neely
Human Factors Engineer

Hewlett-Packard (HP) employs a range of methods to evaluate customer experience in general, and specifically for their internet presence. For example, surveys play a prominent role in the measurement of corporate performance, and are seen as critical for ‘voice of the customer’ or ‘balanced scorecard’ assessment. At the same time, HP internet development programs use a variety of formative and summative user-centered design  techniques for specific projects. While the results of these different activities may be shared within an organization, there is little formal basis for comparison or integration of the findings or for understanding their strengths and weaknesses in shaping program decisions. This presentation will review the methods used in designing and evaluating HP’s enterprise e-support website, provide an analysis of the relationships among these methods, and describe the lessons learned in integrating them in a common process.

Hearing Voices in Florida: 
A Service Company Focuses on Customers

Melissa Rehfus
Vice President, Strategy
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida (BCBSF), the largest health care company in the state, recently increased the intensity of its customer focus.  Recognizing the complex nature of the health care industry, the company completed Voice of the Customer work among four distinct constituencies:  individual plan members, group/business decision makers, agents/brokers, and physicians.  This work has become the foundation for understanding different (and sometimes competing) needs and priorities, translating needs into business process metrics, and setting product development and improvement priorities.  This presentation will highlight some of the unique challenges faced by service companies in the long journey called “Voice of the Customer” by describing BCBSF’s processes, results, and learnings along the way.

Deploying the Voice of the Customer Throughout the Product Development Process – A Medical Device Success Story

Bob West
Project Director
Baxter Healthcare

After commissioning and completing a rigorous, global "Voice of the Customer" study on an advanced medical product, the product development team continually referred back to those results over the entire 30-month development cycle to decide the initial project scope, to make design decisions, to consider tradeoffs, and even to determine the type and scope of final testing.  This presentation will provide a brief look at those VOC results, followed by a series of concrete examples of various activities and choices that were based on those results and the successful outcomes of those decisions.

Using VOC to Link Technology to Market Opportunity

Kurt W. Swogger
Vice President, R&D Plastics
The Dow Chemical Company

Dow Chemical has developed a Speed-based philosophy to dramatically decrease product cycle time and increase product success. One of the key premises for this philosophy is to link very early customer input and advice to the market and technology validity of a project. Over the years, Dow has used Performance Requirements, Voice of the Customer and QFD from Six Sigma, and the Summit Process™ by Isis to successfully gather information and commitment from its customers. Dow has reduced its cycle times by a factor of three to five and doubled success rates by using the Speed philosophy which focuses on customer and market knowledge and input.

The Role of Leadership in the Voice of the Customer: The CNH Story

John Fowler
Marketing Process Director
CNH (Case New Holland)

In 2002, CNH, a group of agricultural and construction equipment brands that includes Case, International Harvester and New Holland, began a process reengineering effort in product development to ensure that two brands resulting from a merger would operate in parallel from a common platform, with a structured process that would help avoid conflict and drive improvement. The company realized it needed a process to work the fuzzy front end immediately.

As the leader of the change effort, John Fowler, will provide valuable insights on how he and his team worked a process of translating customer needs into requirements. Within the space of weeks they carried out all the strategy and preparation, including customer profiling, competitive selection, product application and utilization. Yet in the end, even though the methods aligned everyone on the project, regardless of function, the senior management team wasn’t ready to take the leadership leap. John will describe his strategy to obtain this support along with his successes and failures. 

Key "take aways”:

  • How to turn a pilot project into a burning platform; getting the attention you need to succeed

  • How to get from customer needs to product requirements unanimously across functions; getting the results you need to get buy in for further change

  • How to overcome people’s natural resistance to what they perceive may be the flavor-of-the-month; driving change and improvement in the fuzzy front end

  • How to steer the change efforts; when you know you need to make changes, but don’t know where to begin

Achieving Team and Organizational
Ownership of the VOC Process

Lucia BuehlerLucia Buehler
Group Product Director
Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc.

How do you implement a critical change in your VOC process once you identify the need for improvement?  How do you prove to the teams and the organization that this is a cutting edge process improvement, before hundreds of "How-to" books are published?    Ms. Buehler will discuss how they were able to shift the culture by addressing:

  • How involvement of the cross-functional product development team early in the VOC process provided ownership of the Voice of the Customer   

  • How the implementation team drove the organizational changes and added credibility to the VOC Process Improvements

  • How “training" was sidelined for facilitated real-time working sessions for each new product development team

  • How the current process was built by internalizing the new methods project team-by-project team

Ms. Buehler walk you through the use of their current VOC process on a breast cancer medical device project and the will highlight benefits gained.

Voices to Solutions

Piyush Sanghani
Sr. Product Research Manager
Product Development & Management

TransUnion is a leading global information solutions company that customers trust as a business intelligence partner and commerce facilitator. This session will center on a case study of a recent "Voice of the Customer" cross-functional initiative that has allowed TransUnion to gain a greater understanding of customer needs and unearth new product ideas.

This session will help you learn how to:

  • Approach a Voice of the Customer study, build executive support and align cross-functional resources

  • Get started with a VOC study - what works and what doesn't based on a real-life case study

  • Integrate VOC into the product development process and generate winning product ideas

Available Mon-Fri 
9:30am-5pm est

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Applied Marketing Science

Product Development Consulting, Inc.