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Understanding the lean voice of the customer

Pauline Found (Lean Enterprise Research Centre, Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Richard Harrison (Lean Enterprise Research Centre, Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)

International Journal of Lean Six Sigma

ISSN: 2040-4166

Article publication date: 3 August 2012




Understanding customer value is described as the first Lean principle but there is scant literature on how customer value is defined. The purpose of this paper is to present a model for understanding the product and service elements that a customer values and expects from the supply relationship.


The research approach taken in this work has been based around model development from a review of the existing literature and synthesis of a range of industry cases. The industry cases have been studied using a range of research approaches, including direct observation, semi‐structured interviews and action‐based research.


The key to sustaining a customer‐supplier relationship is managing customer expectations so that the product, or service, that is being supplied at least meets, or exceeds, their basic requirements. The problem is that if it is not fully understand what the customer values and expects, then we cannot hope to satisfy them adequately.

Practical implications

A framework for understanding the voice of the customer (VoC) has practical implications for industry striving to compete in the current economic climate. In addition, the paper has implications for academics trying to understand sustainability of lean supply chain programs and delivering research‐led teaching in logistics and operations management.


The originality and value of this paper is in its synthesis of existing best practice from industry, consultancy and academia into a coherent framework for understanding the VoC in a Lean Six Sigma implementation.



Found, P. and Harrison, R. (2012), "Understanding the lean voice of the customer", International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 251-267.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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