Understanding what your customer needs from your product or service and then structuring your business to deliver against these requirements brings customer loyalty and business success. We can use Critical to Customer requirements to decipher the customer needs, let’s see how this works in practice.

Overview: What is Critical to Customer (CTC)? 

Critical to Customer (CTC), or sometimes known as Critical to Client, are the customer-defined attributes or requirements of a product or service that are deemed most important. The crucial element here is that they are defined by the customer and not by you or your organization. There are a number of process steps required to successfully develop CTCs.

First we need to identify who our customers are (or could be) and collect their input, so called Voice of the Customer (VOC). The VOC is a structured process directly requesting and gathering the needs, wants, expectations, and performance experiences of the customer about the products or services you provide. 

Our next step is to translate this often conflicting and confusing VoC data into CTC requirements. We can do this with the help of tools such as quality function deployment (QFD). Alternatively, we can clarify, translate, and classify requirements utilizing a hierarchical approach — for example: basic, expected, desired, and unanticipated requirements. Knowledge and study of Kano analysis can be helpful in structuring our CTC requirements.

Thirdly, we review our CTCs and get ready for translation to Critical to Quality (CTQ) requirements — again, QFD tools can be helpful.

VOC, CTC, and CTQ are often misunderstood or used interchangeably; here’s an example to help us get things straight (note: we are only showing one CTC and CTQ in the example, but there can be many more).

2 benefits and 1 drawback of CTC 

Understanding what your customer requires from and values about your product or service builds customer loyalty. Let’s explore some benefits and drawbacks of utilizing CTC requirements.

1. Gives you a tangible connection to your customer 

We often hear the phrases “put yourself in the shoes of your customer,” or “look at it from your customer’s perspective.” This is exactly what we get with CTC analysis; we connect with our customer and understand what is critical to them.

2. Less rework and warranty, improved customer satisfaction

If we provide products and services to our customers that meet exactly their requirements, then we have less rework, less product warranty issues, and we build customer satisfaction and loyalty.

3. It takes time to generate and crunch the data 

Don’t underestimate the time it takes to get feedback from your customers and translate this into meaningful requirements. There are some tools we can use to help, the most common being Quality Function Deployment (QFD), which takes VOC through to CTC and then CTQ.

Why is CTC important to understand? 

By using and understanding CTC requirements, we can fight our competition and build customer satisfaction. Let’s explore this further.

Meet your customer requirements

The focus is on the customer and how to meet their requirements. What is it about your products, processes, or services that is critical to satisfying the customer? Answer this, and you are on the way to defining your CTCs.

Build customer loyalty and satisfaction 

If you provide the right product or service on time, every time, it’s a sure-fire way to build customer loyalty and satisfaction. Defining and understanding CTCs and translating these to measurable CTQs is a proven process-driven approach that delivers results.

Control and defend you competitive position 

It’s a tough and competitive business world, and you need to defend your customer base. By understanding customer requirements and aligning your business to provide those CTC requirements, you can fight off competitive pressure and retain your customers.

An industry example of CTC

A large automaker was losing global market share in the competitive SUV segment and needed to reverse the trend of declining sales. The vehicles were sold across Europe and Asia with a diverse customer base. To better understand the requirements of customers, a number of customer clinics were arranged to capture the VOC. 

As expected, the VOC information was varied and often conflicting, especially across different countries and demographics. It was decided to utilize a Kano model analysis approach to translate the VOC information into CTC requirements. This approach allowed the automaker to classify the data and differentiate CTC requirements between countries. They were able to adapt their product and service offerings to match the customer requirements that were critical to a specific country whilst removing features that were not deemed critical or adding customer satisfaction. 

With clearly developed CTCs that were tailored for the country of sale, the automaker was able to reverse the trend of declining sales and build back customer loyalty and satisfaction.

3 best practices when thinking about CTC 

As with many process-driven activities, there are some key things for us to consider when generating CTC requirements. Let’s look at three of these.

1. Ask your customers lots of questions 

It all starts with the Voice of the Customer (VOC). Take time to ask lots of questions, and ask questions in different ways to tease out any hidden requirements. Make note of everything and don’t filter out content.

2. Understand, clarify and translate  

Often, the VOC can be unstructured, and we need to translate this into CTC requirements. One way to clarify, translate, and classify requirements is to utilize a hierarchical approach, for example. Basic, expected, desired, and unanticipated requirements. Study and knowledge of Kano analysis can also be useful in structuring CTC requirements.

3. Think SMART 

If it’s critical to the customer, then we need to think about how we can ensure consistent achievement of the requirement. With CTC requirements, and especially when translating these to CTQ requirements, utlizing descriptive terms that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound (SMART) is hugely helpful.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about CTC

What does Critical to Customer (CTC) mean?

CTC refers to the most important factors as defined by the customer, and then translated into measurable concepts, that meet their requirements and achieve customer satisfaction. 

How do CTC and Critical to Quality (CTQ) relate? 

CTQ is a translation of CTC requirements into real, measurable deliverables. A CTC may be to always receive takeaway food that is hot, and a corresponding CTQ could be to ensure delivery times never exceed 15 minutes.  

Are CTC and Voice of the Customer (VOC) the same thing?

No but they are connected. With VOC, we have unfiltered feedback with customer needs, wants, expectations, and much more. With CTC, we distill this information into tangible requirements that are critical to the customer.

Critical to Customer — the road to customer loyalty? 

Stepping into the shoes of your customer and really understanding what it is about your product or service that makes it sell is a great way to generate customer loyalty. Listen carefully, clarify, and translate these requirements into deliverables, and show your customers they are at the heart of your operation.

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