Crafting Excellence through Digital Voice of Customer in the Age of Quality 4.0

Submission deadline date: 31 December 2024


The dynamics of technological innovations, fundamentally reshaping the way organizations operate, also have a profound impact on the realm of quality. Amidst this digital revolution, the concept of Quality 4.0 emerges as a pivotal player. The systematic exploration of Quality 4.0 in research gained traction around 2020, spurred by significant disruptions caused by the pandemic (Yadav, 2021). Since then, the concept has undergone substantial development, initially focusing on its definition. While the American Society for Quality (ASQ) views Quality 4.0 as a concept encompassing digitization, shifts in quality from process to design operators, self-regulatory machines, and human performance, subsequent research studies have offered broader perspectives. Professor Antony and a group of authors define Quality 4.0 as the utilization of advanced technologies like IoT, CPS, and Cloud computing to design, operate, and maintain adaptive, predictive, self-corrective, automated quality systems. This includes enhanced human interaction through quality planning, assurance, control, and improvement, aiming to achieve new benchmarks in performance, operational excellence, and innovation aligned with an organization's vision, mission, and goals (Antony et al., 2022a).

Taking a broader viewpoint, Quality 4.0 is seen as a novel approach leveraging digital tools to drive improvements across the entire value chain (Sony et al., 2020). Its increasing attention stems from its capacity to enhance quality management and elevate customer satisfaction through digitalization (Antony et al., 2023c). Furthermore, Quality 4.0 minimizes the cost of redesign and rework by expediting the product or service launch to the market through dynamic data-based decisions. This results in empowered internal and external customers, fostering effective collaboration, connectivity, and co-creation (Zairi, 2020; Dias et al., 2022). A crucial theme is ensuring customer focus to avoid implementing technology that doesn't contribute to customer satisfaction and thoroughly understanding the benefits of technology before implementation (Antony et al., 2022a). Customer focus remains a constant and integral element in both historical and future initiatives within quality management. The ongoing rapid pace of widespread digitization, permeating nearly every facet of human life, provides an expansive opportunity for capturing the digital voice of the customer (DVoC) in a swifter and more precise manner. DVoC, encompassing platforms like blogs, social media posts, and online reviews, has gained significant credibility as an information source due to its accessibility, trustworthiness, and cost-effectiveness (Özdağoğlu et al., 2018).

This digital form of customer expression has proven to be a promising alternative to traditional customer interviews in identifying consumer needs (Barravecchia et al., 2022; Mastrogiacomo et al., 2021). With the growing trend of product customization in opposition to mass production within the realm of Quality 4.0 (Hyun Park et al., 2017), increased customer participation and ongoing monitoring in the development and production processes become crucial. Notably, personalized service and customer enchantment are emphasized as key success factors in the evolving landscape of quality and excellence (Carvalho et al., 2020). DVoC's role in Quality 4.0 is anticipated to expand further as digitization continues its dynamic trend. Successful implementation of Quality 4.0 relies on reliable data sources and advanced analytical tools capable of gathering precise information, such as customer-related comments from social media, and implementing appropriate actions based on factual data (Jacob, 2017; Sader et al., 2022). The continuous interaction an organization maintains with its customers enables dynamic analysis of their evolving needs (Gerlitz, 2015).

By 2025, the world is anticipated to witness an astounding 175 Zettabytes of data, with a substantial portion of business-relevant information originating in unstructured forms, primarily text (Reinsel, Gantz, and Rydning, 2018, IDC). This vast pool of information comprises contributions from both businesses and organizations, as well as direct user-generated content (Mastrogiacomo et al., 2021). The literature underscores the increasing emphasis on customer relations in our ever-connected world. Technologies facilitating 24/7 DVoC services serve as interaction pathways, previously associated mainly with customer and after-sales services but now evolving to encompass customer participation in product/service design and development (Lim, 2020; Carvalho et al., 2020). Virtual Customer Integration stands out as an exemplary collaborative system enabling customers to provide insights into new product design. Feedback obtained during the design phase reduces risks associated with product launches, enhancing precision in recognizing customer needs. This increased connectivity fosters quality management throughout the entire product life cycle, allowing each step to be redesigned for closer customer relations and heightened compliance with specified requirements (Radziwill, 2018; Mckendrick, 2020; Bodi, 2020).

Prominent tech giants like Apple and Tesla, known for their well-established mechanisms for periodic collection and evaluation of DVoC (Antony et al., 2022a), are not alone in leveraging technological capabilities for real-time assessment of customer feedback. Albers et al.'s (2016) research on the impact of Industry 4.0 technologies on company performance revealed that 45% of respondents believed Industry 4.0 could significantly enhance customer satisfaction by eliminating defective products and improving service. Customer data and information can be swiftly and automatically channeled to the design department and production processes in terms of specifications, quality characteristics, orders, and scheduling (Foidl and Felderer, 2015; Sader et al., 2019; Chiarini et al., 2020). This seamless integration of customer insights into the design and production processes exemplifies the transformative potential of Industry 4.0 technologies.

The extent to which traditional quality management practices have adapted to changes in product development stages, cycle time compression, and aligning employee efforts with demand and customer expectations remains a significant challenge (Gunasekaran et al., 2019). In a customer-centric organization, a thorough analysis of customer needs serves as the foundation for producing products and services tailored to meet those needs. This involves actively collecting customer feedback and continuously enhancing existing products and services or innovating new ones (Wechsler and Schweitzer, 2019; Osakwe, 2020).

In modern organizations, customer satisfaction is not solely derived from excellent products; it also hinges on customer-centric processes (Kreuzer et al., 2020). Thus, a customer-centric approach becomes a crucial readiness factor for implementing Quality 4.0 (Sony et al., 2021). The ability to understand and respond to customer needs, coupled with a commitment to refining processes based on customer feedback, positions organizations to thrive in the era of Quality 4.0. DVoC offers real-time feedback, enabling prompt responses to customer concerns, preventing potential issues from escalating. The high volume of feedback from digital channels requires robust systems and advanced analytics tools to extract valuable insights, identifying trends and emotional contexts not immediately apparent. Personalization is facilitated through digital channels, tailoring customer experiences based on preferences, behaviors, and history, enhancing satisfaction and loyalty. Additionally, collaborative feedback through social media and online reviews allows businesses to identify emerging trends and issues. DVoC serves as a powerful tool for understanding customer needs in the digital age, leveraging real-time feedback, emotional intelligence, personalization, and collaborative engagement to improve satisfaction and loyalty while staying competitive. Moreover, research on DVoC contributes significantly to various management areas, including quality management, supply chain management, marketing, information technology, and operations management. In quality management, it helps identify areas of improvement in product design and manufacturing processes. In supply chain management, it optimizes operations to meet customer expectations. In marketing, it informs strategies related to branding, pricing, and promotional activities. In information technology management, it aids in developing strategies aligned with customer needs. In operations management, it provides insights into service delivery and operational efficiency. Overall, DVoC research is critical for organizations, enhancing their understanding of customer requirements across different management domains, leading to improved performance and competitiveness while enhancing customer satisfaction.

While external and internal factors are supportive of implementing the Quality 4.0 concept in practice, the realm of DVoC has remained relatively unexplored. The ongoing digitalization of organizations provides distinctive opportunities to elevate the management of product and service quality. Traditional quality management practices faced challenges due to the dynamic nature of customer needs, making it challenging to maintain consistently high-quality standards (Bergman and Klefsjö, 2010). Despite progress, many companies still grapple with quality management issues, evident in frequent product recalls, especially in industries like automotive (Gunasekaran et al., 2019). Evaluating how well traditional quality management practices have adapted to changes in product development stages, compressed cycle times, and aligning employee efforts with demand and customer expectations remains a significant challenge (Gunasekaran et al., 2019). The shift towards a customer-centric approach involves a thorough analysis of customer needs, tailoring products and services accordingly. This encompasses the continuous collection of customer feedback and iterative enhancements to existing offerings or the creation of new ones (Wechsler and Schweitzer, 2019; Osakwe, 2020). In contemporary organizations, customer satisfaction extends beyond superior products to include satisfaction with customer-centric processes (Kreuzer et al., 2020). Consequently, an organization's readiness to adopt Quality 4.0 is influenced by its customer-centric orientation (Sony et al., 2021). Despite these advancements, there exists a research gap in understanding how organizations can effectively integrate digitalization, customer-centricity, and traditional quality management practices to optimize overall quality in the rapidly evolving business landscape. Addressing this gap is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of the synergies and challenges in leveraging these elements for enhanced quality management.


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List of topic areas

  • Capturing of DVoC as a way to achieve operational excellence
  • The role of DVoC in different stages of product lifecycle management
  • The role of DVoC in the new concept of Quality 4.0 New technological solutions in the identification and analysis of DVoC
  • The potential of processing DVoC with regard to rapidly changing customer expectations under the influence of growing competition

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Key deadlines

Opening date for manuscripts submissions: 1st July, 2024

Closing date for manuscripts submission: 31st December, 2024