Voice of the Customer

The CAGE Model

The CAGE Model can assist us in understanding where we are lacking in gaining the Voice of the Customer (VOC).  It visually depicts the critical areas where we must attain information so that the features of our product align with customer needs and that we provide innovation in our product.  Most product failures are due to lack of understanding the customers’ priority needs, believing and implementing everything the customer asks for and absence of any innovative or quality features that differentiate your product from the competition.

Below we will show and explain the CAGE Model.


The CAGE Model has three areas.

The first area is represented in yellow on the diagram and refers to what the product team believes the needs of the customer are before they begin to communicate with the customer in gaining their voice.  Unfortunately, there are a good number of teams which stop here and develop a product based on what they feel the customers need.

The second area is represented in blue and refers to the needs that the customer has told us after gaining the VOC using elicitation techniques.  The product team’s initial understanding (yellow) and the customer’s articulated needs (blue) can overlap differently depending on organization, elicitation techniques, product team knowledge, etc.

The third area is represented in green on the diagram and refers to the “sweet spot” of needs that will make this a great product.  It is comprised of the features that will provide the customer with the needed value and innovation to make the product a “win” in the marketplace.

CAGE Model 2

Outside of the green “sweet spot” lie three areas which identify incorrect requirements.

Area D are the needs that the product team got wrong.  This could have happened by any number of reasons such as having poor knowledge, bad assumptions, etc.

Area B is what the customers got wrong.  Let’s face it customers do not always articulate their needs well and are only human, so may have political motives behind requests that will not necessarily increase product value.  They may also be asking for out of scope features.

Area F is what both the project team and the customer got wrong.  This should not be a great deal of features, but it can happen.

CAGE Model 3

Inside the green “sweet spot” are the requirements and features that will produce a winning product.

Area C represents the customer insights that were not initially recognized by the product team.  The product team needs to use elicitation techniques in order to acquire these.  What techniques and how much to spend needs to be weighed by the team and the organization.  Email surveys cost little and on the other end of the spectrum is ethnographic methods of observing the customer which could have a much higher cost.  This is where your elicitation expertise and practices will make the difference.

Area A is pretty easy – everybody found and agrees that these features are needed.  The project team uncovered them and the customers validated the need.  The customers will definitely be looking for these features in the product.  These features are usually classified as “One Dimensional” (see Kano Model post) and will sway the customer in proportion to how well they have been implemented to customer expectation and competitive product comparison.

Area G are the features the project team identified, but were not voiced by the customer.  In most cases these are the “Must Be” requirement classification type (see post on Kano Model).  These requirements are just so obvious that the customer doesn’t even request them.  For instance if a customer was asking you to build a car for them they probably would not tell you “Now remember, I need a steering wheel” – it just goes without saying.

Area E is the innovative requirements.  These are the “WOW” factor that make your product unique and are a differentiator.  These are the toughest features to uncover, but will make your customer extremely satisfied.

CAGE Model 4

Depending on your team, customers, experimentation and elicitation techniques, to mention a few, you can end up with different CAGE Model overlays.  Practice good elicitation/feedback techniques and maximize your “sweet spot” while minimizing the bad requirements B, D and F areas to gain the Voice of the Customer and create a winning product for your organization!