The Magic Phrase

“Can you help me? I don’t understand.?”

Absolutely magic in voice-of-the-customer¹ project² work.

When you say this early on in a cold call to a potential customer, you move the customer into the role of the Professor and you move into the Intelligent Pupil role².

In my experience, Professors … i.e., Sr. VPs, machine operators supervisors, etc., … will then share:

  • Domain expertise
  • Their view of the need for your product concept.

You must maintain your Intelligent Pupil role during a VOC interview

Thirty VOC interviews, by an Intelligent Pupil, identify 90+% of the needs for a product concept¹.

Inexperienced cold-call project workers abandon the Pupil role after a few interviews. The rich information they’ve learned, tempts them to teach the Professor.

The power of a VOC unbiased, blind study, for setting priorities on product concepts’ development, is lost.

The Professor detects the change in role and ends the interview.



… experts may have preconceived notions of what constitutes a customer need. This may cause them to miss surprising or unexpected statements of needs. — Griffin & Hauser¹



1The Voice of Customer Abbie Griffin, John Hauser, Marketing Science Institute Report No. 92-106 (1972)

2 The magic sentence is part of my workshop, Step-By-Step Guide to Elicitation Interview Projects