Voice of the Customer (VOC) is a driving value that determines the amount of waste and what adjustments need to be made to the service or manufacturing process to achieve more efficiency and thus more value to the customer. To the extent that a service satisfies the customer the service is valued. A satisfied customer is a happy customer.

In Government VOC is not easily identified. The pluralistic environment in our democratic society and government brings many masters all of which might be identified as the customer. Which perspective is the true voice of the customer? Is there one? Certainly tax payers are a customer however, one could argue that the tax payer is not the customer at all. Do we pay taxes to get services? No. We pay taxes to have the privilege of living in a safe free land. Are the vendors the customers? The vast number of small and large businesses that provide the various products and services to government could be customers since they may depend on government contracts for their business. Citizens who receive services such as drivers using highways, motor vehicle owners getting licensing and registration documentation, students and parents who participate in local education, Medicare recipients, social security recipients, and other social service. Are they the customer? If they paid for the service they would clearly be the customer, since they do not they should not be the only party government wishes to satisfy.

Who is the voice of the customer in the lean operations of government?

This is not a simple answer. The key is that when a Value Stream is mapped that the customer for that particular process be identified. A value stream conducted for vendors of government as customer might be vastly different from a value stream for students in a school. The customer must clearly be identified in the charter, by the VSM manager, prior to facilitating the process analysis. The sponsor should be the main source for defining who the customer is and the champion must support and help define the customer in terms that are clear. The metric results will then be very useful in determining value, reducing waste and making the process more efficient.

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