15.821 | Fall 2002 | Graduate

Listening to the Customer


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Objectives of 15.821

This course has three complementary objectives, namely, to:

  • provide a concise “user’s guide” to the most valuable and common qualitative customer research methods (focus groups, customer visits, interviews)
  • teach key skills for “do-it-yourself” customer research (preparing & conducting interviews, group discussions, surveys, and site visits)
  • through a full-course project, teach all the basic steps of a Voice of the Customer exercise


You will need a tape recoder for your interviews.

Group Project (3-4 students per project)

This material is tough to learn from a textbook. Therefore, a major element of the course is a survey-based group project. It breaks down into seven tasks, which roughly coordinated with the seven weeks of the course:

  1. Selecting a topic and formulating a research plan
  2. Preparing for customer interviews
  3. Conducting and taping interviews
  4. Transcribing the interviews and identify customer statements or “voices”
  5. Interpreting or “scrubbing” the voices, and organizing into a hierarchy
  6. Proposing a new concept or solution based on the voices
  7. Writing the research report

A typical problem involves understanding the customers’ perspective in a new market. You will have a lot of freedom in choosing the problem, as long as it allows application of all of the steps.


Group Project: 50%
Class Participation: 50%

Project reports are due in class.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2002
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes