Your customers want something.

Chances are you are also able to meet those needs to some extent.

Additionally you probably are sure that your customers also buy from your competitors.

Could you improve so that they would think twice, simply because you meet their needs better?

It’s possible, and the first thing to do is to visualise those needs.

One of the ways to do that is called Critical To Quality (CTQ) tree—a method that translates customer needs into measurable metrics, paving the way for strategic enhancements.

The CTQ Tree

The CTQ diagram is like tree set sideways. On the left you have the customer need statement, then the drivers that are the components of the need. Each driver is then broken down into written requirements that can be measured with a metric. For the metric you then set targets. That’s it!

Critical to Quality tree overview

Let’s walk through these one by one.

Step 1: Express the need in written

It’s possible to build the CTQ tree from “bottom up” or from “top down”, and the way we build it here in Seomphony is to first state the customer need as a short sentence. For example, if you are in the business of running a coffee shop, the customer need statement could say: “I want to enjoy nice coffee breaks”.

It’s possible that in the beginning you cannot write the statement clearly or in full yet. Sometimes it only becomes clear once you’ve defined the other levels so the need is something you can return to once you’ve defined all the levels at least once.

Now, if you are in the business of selling any kinds of products or services, you probably are already receiving feedback from your customers about them. You should use that material as basis for the need statement. In addition, you can ask the customers to fill in surveys, do interviews, arrange focus groups in Research and Development, monitor discussion in social media, analyze customer support interactions, and read online reviews. The customer need statement should then be the aggregation of all of the sources. You probably also need to update the statement periodically, because customers, markets, products and competitors change.

Step 2: Drivers of the need

The next level is to figure out what are the drivers for the need.

Drives are components that constitute the need. In our example of a coffee shop, the drivers could be the product itself i.e. coffee and then the environment where the coffee is enjoyed, which in this case would the coffee shop and its interior design and other features.

Step 3: The requirements

The third level is about identifying and recording the actual requirements of the drivers.

In our coffee shop example the requirements related to the coffee driver could be taste of the coffee, its temperature and the delivery time (from stepping in to the coffee shop to getting the cup of coffee in the hand of the customer).

Step 4: Defining Metrics

On the fourth level we need to decide what metrics we will measure the requirements with. In our coffee shop example the coffee requirement could be measured with the availability of a specific brand popular among the customers, the temperature of the coffee at the time of delivery as well as the quantity of coffee per cup.

Step 5: Targets

Last you have the targets.

However, there are two levels to this: your current performance and the level you need to reach. The latter is defined by the customer needs and feedback you have gathered, and the former you can find out by measuring what your process can currently output.

In our example, a simple way to measure your current performance is simply to measure how often you have the customer-preferred coffee brand available in e.g. 100 deliveries, how much coffee is poured into cups on average and what the temperature of the coffee is at the time of delivery, per 100 deliveries.

The below example also mentions extras, but you may want to leave milks and sweeteners for the customers to decide themselves.

Critical to Quality tree: the coffee break example

Step 6: Closing the gaps

When you draw your first CTQ picture, measure your current performance and indicate the desired performance as defined by the customer need, you most likely will see that there is a gap between what the customers need and what your current process can output.

That gap can be closed by designing and running a continuous improvement experiment.

Once the experiment is done, you’ll then state whether you were able to close the gap partly or fully, and if only partly, you’ll define another experiment to get even closer to the desired level.

And that’s how you work with the CTQ tree and continuous improvement!

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