IDENTIFYING CLIENT REQUIREMENTS ”The Voice of the Client”

Meeting client requirements requires that those requirements be understood. The "voice of the client" is a term to describe the stated and unstated client requirements or requirements. The voice of the client can captured in a variety of ways: direct discussion or interviews, surveys, focus groups, client specifications, observation, warranty data, field reports, etc.

A Voice of the Client study provides:
1) A detailed understanding of the client’s requirements 2) Key input for the setting of appropriate design specifications for the new product or service 3) A starting point for product/service innovation. The Importance of Asking the Right Questions A designer received a frantic call from a client’s employee. The employee explained he had accidentally spilled a cup of coffee on the keyboard of his boss's new computer. The employee was quite distressed and asked if he had ruined the keyboard. The designer considered this for a moment. Then, deciding that a $50 keyboard could be replaced relatively easily and inexpensively if necessary, he instructed the empoyee to unplug the keyboard and rinse it with clear water. The designer told him to set the keyboard aside to dry thoroughly before plugging it in once more. Greatly relieved, the employee thanked the designer and hung up. Within the hour, the

designer’s boss received a follow-up call from an irate client demanding to know what "%#*$" instructed his employee to put his brand new $3,000 laptop computer in the sink and douse it with water.

Techniques to capture the voice of the client.
Techniques used will depend on the nature of the client relationship ie. Direct or Indirect: Direct – local clients Client meeting Interviews Client service feedback Competitive analysis Indirect – Business to Business clients Surveys Market research Focus groups

WORKING WITH CLIENTS
Designers need to be directly involved in understanding client requirements. This may involve visiting or meeting with clients, observing clients using or maintaining products, participating in focus groups or rotating designers through marketing, sales, or client support functions. This direct involvement provides a better understanding of client requirements, the client environment, and product use. During client discussions, it is essential to identify the basic client requirements. Frequently, clients will try to express their requirements in terms of HOW the need can be satisfied and not in terms of WHAT the need is. This

limits consideration of development alternatives. Designer should ask WHY until they truly understand what the real need is. Challenge, question and clarify requirements until they make sense. Document situations and circumstances to illustrate a client need. Address priorities related to each need. Not all client requirements are equally important. the objective is to understand how satisfying a particular need influences the purchase decision. In addition to obtaining an understanding of client requirements, it is also important to obtain the client's perspective on the competition relative to the proposed product. How do competitive products rank against our current or proposed product or prototype?

Client Interviews
Customer interviews are a common mechanism for gathering the voice of the customer. Customer interviews are usually conducted one-on-one with an individual customer or with a small number of people from the same company. They provide an opportunity to get in-depth information from a single customer.

The interviews are used to understand:
1. What are the client’s business issues (if applicable)? 2. What is the client’s problem / need? 3. How will the product solve the client’s problem/need? 4. What are the specific needs that must be satisfied to address the client’s problem? 5. What are the priorities of these needs? 6. What are the strengths and weaknesses of our product(s) vs. the competition? It is important to prepare for the interview in advance. When conducting the interviews, one person ask the

questions and one person should take notes. Consider audio or video recording the interview, but obtain permission first. After the interview, the interview notes and any recordings will need to be summarized and distilled into a set of distinct customer needs.

Client Interview suggestions:
1. Get some background on the interviewee. 2. Arrange for privacy. 3. Ask permission to take notes and explain the purpose (e.g., they are just to guarantee accuracy). Never trust your memory. 4. Set a finite time limit and try to finish early. 5. Bring scripted questions with you. Start with these (no need to use them all) so that you have a comfortable starting point. 6. Don't offer your own opinion or show any bias. 7. Be conversational but directive. 8. Send a thank you note and encourage the individual to let you know of any other thoughts they have.

EXERCISE.
Record an audio or video interview with one of your local clients to determine their satisfaction with the website that you have developed and maintain for them. For your interview prepare questions for your client to determine: 1. That their basic/essential requirements are being met. 2. Their attitude to your proposal to introduce some specific enhancements to their website. 3. Their interest in other products/services that you can provide. Embed your interview in your wiki space and blog site.