This is the heart of Everyday VOC probing. Use this Everyday VOC Guide to practice and as a prompt during calls
Understanding “what customers want” is a fuzzy goal. Let’s break it down to either outcomes (customers’ desired end results) or solutions (suppliers’ offerings). It’s true that customers usually can’t tell you the solutions they want. But that’s not their job. It’s yours.
Can they explain their desired outcomes? B2B customers most certainly can. They’re in business to make money and can tell you when they want faster line speed, fewer defects, lower labor costs, etc. So let’s be clear about our intent: This methodology helps you understand the outcomes your B2B customers want.
This methodology was developed by The AIM Institute and has been continually refined since 2005 while training tens of thousands of B2B professionals in New Product Blueprinting. While Blueprinting is designed to understand customer needs for new product development, we’ve made some adjustments so it can be used... well... every day.
We call this the “What-Why-Clarify” probing method. First you need a customer problem to apply it to. This happens when the customer brings up a problem, or when you ask the customer for any problems they’re facing. You can use the Everyday VOC Guide to help you with your probing questions. (Download at www.aimclientcenter.com)
- “What” questions. This doesn’t mean your questions start with the word “what,” but rather you’re trying to understand what the problem is all about. Some examples include:
- Could you describe the problem?
- Where does it take place?
- What people are involved?
- What equipment is used?
- When does this happen?
- How often does it happen?
- How long does the problem last?
- What’s the sequence of events?
- “Why” questions. While the “What” questions are for observation, the “Why” questions are for implication: Why does this matter to the customer? Here are some examples:
- How does this impact your business?
- Why is this a problem for you?
- Who does this impact?
- How big of a problem is this?
- How severe is this?
- Anything here you’d like to see done faster, better, or cheaper?
- Anything else we should know about this?
- Clarify questions: To clarify the customer’s desired outcome, use an “Outcome Statement,” a clever approach developed by Tony Ulwick (see What Customers Want). You test what the customer wants, using the format, verb—unit of measure—object. You might ask the customer, “Are you saying you want to...”
- Minimize the time needed for the adhesive to reach full bond strength?
- Maximize the corrosion resistance of your product?
- Minimize the time needed to install this equipment?
- Minimize the overspray of your coating?
- Minimize the training time to reach full competency with this software?
- Maximize the service life of this component?
- Minimize the time required to get a satisfactory technical support response?
After you clarify—and this is very important—you ask the customer, “Are there any other problems we should know about?” Then “rinse and repeat” with another round of What-Why-Clarify probing questions.
Keywords: what, why, clarify, probing, probe, customer outcomes, outcome statement, everyday voc guide, questions, New Product Blueprinting, anything else?