Quality Function Deployment: The Best Method For Building Customer-Driven Products
Are you wondering what Quality Function Deployment (QFD) is? Would you like to know when product managers should use it and how?
If so, you are in the right place!
The article explains what Quality Function Deployment is and explores its benefits and rationale. It also outlines its stages, looks at the House of Quality, and how to make sure the Voice of your Customers is heard.
Are you ready? Let’s get to it!
- Quality Function Deployment (QDF) is a framework that helps teams translate customer requirements into technical requirements, and design the product and processes needed for its development.
- Thanks to QDF you can build products that meet user expectations and decrease the development time and cost.
- QDF was developed for the car industry in Japan in the 1960s. Customer-driven engineering and manufacturing of cars proved successful and have been adopted by other industries.
- There are 4 stages of Quality Function Deployment:
- Product Planning focuses on capturing the Voice of the Customer and mapping requirements against technical specifications. House of Quality is a common tool used for that.
- At the Product Development stage, teams decide on the features to build.
- Process Development focuses on designing an efficient and cost-effective way to produce the product.
- The aim of Process Quality Control is to make sure that the process can deliver the required output.
- There are tools and techniques for collecting qualitative and quantitative Voice of the Customer data in SaaS:
- Quantitative data can come from in-app surveys, like CES, Customer Effort Score, the Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), or feature surveys.
- You should collect feedback at all stages of the user journey.
- Tracking feature usage data gives you objective and reliable quantitative data on how the product performs.
- Public roadmaps communicate your feature development plans to your user community and allow them to provide feedback.
- Interviews and focus groups are great sources of qualitative data and can reveal what surveys or usage analytics don’t.
- When choosing features to develop, make sure you don’t fall into the feature fallacy or 1% traps. Select the features that are consistent with the product strategy and solve the problems of the majority of your users.
- Userpilot helps teams capture user feedback with in-app surveys and feature usage tracking.
What is quality function deployment (QFD)
Quality Function Deployment (QFD) is a structured methodology and set of techniques used for product discovery and development. It helps product teams to translate customer requirements into product specifications.
It also guides the teams through product and process design and helps implement adequate quality assurance procedures.
The QFD methodology allows teams to ensure alignment between qualitative customer desires and technical requirements for the product.
Benefits of implementing quality function deployment
Using quality function deployment in product management has a few benefits, the overarching one being increased customer satisfaction.
Build products that are customer-focused and relevant
Quality Function Deployment enables teams to build products that deliver value to customers. Thanks to its focus on the Voice of the Customer (VoC), the process helps them identify user needs and expectations and discover the best ways to satisfy them.
Consistent application of the QFD tools results in products that are relevant to customers.
Shorter development time and lower costs
Quality function deployment reduces the development time and costs.
When product teams focus on what the customers really need (and only that), they require less time to develop products. In other words, the time they take to discover customer problems and methodically arrive at solutions leads to savings in the long run.
Of course, not wasting time on developing features nobody wants also saves money.
What is more, QFD helps teams get the quality right the first time. That means no costly design and development rework later on.
Clear structure and documentation
Quality function deployment is a very clearly structured framework. The steps are easy to follow, so product teams need relatively little time to develop adequate levels of competence.
QFD is also a very well-known framework, so there are plenty of resources around that can help your team to implement it in your organization. A quick internet search will help you find step-by-step guides or ready-to-use templates.
As you get more experienced, you can tweak them and modify them to the unique requirements of your business – and customers, and then use them again and again.
What is the history of quality function deployment?
The QFD framework originated in the 1960s in Japan. It was developed originally for the needs of the automobile industry.
The method was used to a great effect by Toyota and Mitsubishi. Thanks to such a customer-centric approach, their cars were incredibly successful not only in Japan but also in the USA.
The American car producers GM, Ford, and Daimler Chrysler couldn’t afford to ignore it and started implementing it in the early 1980s.
Focusing on customer satisfaction resulted in innovative designs that could eventually compete against their Japanese rivals. It also helped to shorten the design cycles and reduce staffing, which resulted in smaller overheads.
Nowadays, QFD and its tools like the House of Quality are used in all sectors, not just manufacturing.
When should you use quality function deployment?
QFD is most effective when you use it throughout the product lifecycle.
Successful product discovery should always be an ongoing process. Implementing the framework at every stage of the product development process forces you to listen to the VoC and act on the insights at all times.
The more you know about your customers, the easier it is to implement the framework for their benefit. It is perfect for iterative development and incremental innovation of existing products, where there is already some knowledge about the product users.
For new products, the framework is perhaps less effective, but still can be put to good use if you conduct robust market and customer research.
Phases of the quality function deployment process
There are four main steps of the Quality Function Deployment process:
- Product Planning
- Product Development
- Process Development
- Process Quality Control
Next, they need to map the customer requirements against product features or design requirements. A tool known as the House of Quality is used for that purpose.
During the Product Development Stage, it’s time to identify the key features and their specifications that will constitute the product.
Teams use the outputs from the previous phase, prioritize them and identify interdependencies between new and old features.
The output of this stage is a list of features that will solve customer problems and deliver value.
Having identified the ‘What?’ of the development process in the previous stage, it’s time to focus on the ‘How?’.
During the Process Development Stage, you design the processes necessary to deliver the features or functionality. To maximize effectiveness and efficiency, the processes need to be specific to the features and functionality you are working on.
Process quality control
In manufacturing, the production costs could be huge, so it’s important to test the manufacturing and assembly processes before you start.
Process quality control involves defining process parameters and suitable testing methods. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the process is capable of delivering the product to the agreed specifications and quality.
Development of SaaS products, especially in the startup phase, is a bit more forgiving than large-scale manufacturing as it is easier to rectify issues in the process.
What is the House of Quality?
House of Quality is a process of translating customer desires into tangible product specifications.
The product team records and prioritizes customer requirements (left side) and maps against technical specifications (top and bottom). The central part consists of the relationship matrix, where the relationships between requirements and specifications are assessed.
The right side is for competitive analysis where you evaluate how your rivals perform with reference to each customer requirement.
Finally, the ‘roof’ of the house is where you assess the interrelations between the technical requirements. For example, there could be a strong correlation between picture quality and the load time of your app.
How to run an effective VOC program to collect the feedback needed for your Quality Function Deployment
For the Quality Function Deployment process to be effective, it is essential to capture the Voice of the Customer reliably. After all, if you don’t know the needs of your customers, you can’t determine what features will solve their problems.
This may sound like a daunting task, but there are tools and techniques which will help you record the VoC and aid the product and process development at later stages.
Collect customer feedback with in-app microsurveys
In-app microsurveys are great for actively collecting feedback from your customers.
Tools like Userpilot allow you to create highly customizable microsurveys. You can use them to target specific user segments. What’s more, they can be triggered by particular user actions at a predetermined stage of their user journey.
Use different customer satisfaction and loyalty surveys
There are a few kinds of surveys you can use at the first stage of the Quality Function Deployment process using growth platforms like Userpilot.
CES, or Customer Effort Score, is a metric that measures the effort required by a customer to interact with your product.
The CES surveys are particularly valuable because they allow you to find friction points and improve customer experience.
Out of the different customer satisfaction surveys, the Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is one worth looking at. CSAT measures customers’ experience and satisfaction levels with a specific product, feature, or other interactions with your business.
If you would like to see a quality example, have a look at the Hubspot CSAT survey.
Feature surveys are used to collect user feedback about particular features of the product. They are worth considering because they enable product teams to listen to the Voice of the Customer at scale.
Collect micro feedback at different touchpoints
You should try to give your users a chance to give feedback at any point in their journey.
By embedding easy-to-use survey widgets in the UI, like Miro below, you give your users an opportunity to give feedback whenever they feel the need to do so.
Another example from Miro collecting feedback with a UI-embedded feedback form.
Passive feedback can be particularly valuable as users give it when they want, not when you want them to. Such voluntary feedback is more likely to be open and direct.
Track product usage and draw meaningful insights
Tracking product usage is probably one of the most reliable ways of collecting insights on how to improve your product.
By watching how your users interact with the product, you can identify the issues they may be facing.
For example, if you notice that users take particularly long to complete a task or fail to do it completely, your team can use this knowledge to rectify the issue.
The advantage of tracking usage data is that it is objective and doesn’t rely on the customer being able to articulate what their pain points are.
Make sure to gather both qualitative and quantitative data
If you are a data geek and love your analytics tools, it is easy to ignore other sources of feedback. However, qualitative data can be equally insightful, so make sure to collect it along with quantitative data.
How can you do it? The easiest way is to use follow-up questions to your scale-type surveys.
For example, you could first collect quantitative data with an NPS survey.
Next, you simply reach out to the respondents and ask follow-up questions.
You could contact them directly, or simply attach open text questions to your surveys and ask users to provide more details in their own words.
Use a customer-facing roadmap to gather insights
Public roadmaps are a great way to capture the Voice of the Customer in Quality Function Deployment and build strong relationships with your users.
How do they work?
You can use a project management tool like Trello to present what your team is currently working on and what else you have in the pipeline.
Users can interact with such a roadmap by commenting or liking ideas to show their approval. You can also give them the option to add their own feature requests.
The added benefit of customer-facing roadmaps is that it communicates to the customer that you value their voice and take it into account when making decisions.
Conduct user interviews to understand your customers better
Customer interviews and focus groups can reveal what surveys or usage tracking doesn’t.
The main advantage is that you can use follow-up questions to explore the issues that your customers raise.
The interviews don’t need to be formal. All your customer-facing team members should see every interaction with your users as a chance to collect feedback on your product.
Don’t fall into build traps
There are some risks of following your customer feedback blindly.
To start with, you may fall into the feature fallacy trap and build features that don’t fit with the overall product vision. To avoid that, make sure you constantly check the alignment of the roadmap with your product strategy.
The other risk that product teams face is the 1% trap. It may be tempting to build features for the most vocal or powerful customers, but that may mean ignoring the needs of the vast majority of the users.
Such power users amount to only 1% of your total user base, so don’t overprioritize them.
Quality Function Deployment is a framework that enables the product team to use information about customer needs to determine product design parameters, and ultimately develop products that provide value to users.
If you would like to learn how Userpilot can help you capture the Voice of the Customer for the purposes of QFD, get the demo!