Involving Customers in New Service Development

Patrik Gottfridsson (Service Research Centre, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden)

International Journal of Service Industry Management

ISSN: 0956-4233

Article publication date: 14 March 2008



Gottfridsson, P. (2008), "Involving Customers in New Service Development", International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 148-150.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

In the service‐driven economy, companies try to increase their competitiveness by introducing new products and services that create value for existing customers and that attract new customers. Service management theory implies that this value is defined by and co‐created with the customer on the basis of value in use. Based on this there is a general trend of companies wanting to become more customer‐oriented and involving their customers in the development of new services. Research shows that there are several benefits to customer‐involvement, including better products, more satisfied customers, increased loyalty, and higher profits. It is, however, a relatively new research area, and many questions still remain to be answered. In their new book Involving Customers in New Service Development, Edvardsson et al., gives answers to some of these questions and provides important insights about how this should be done.

The book is an editorial book consisting of 15 chapters written by leading actors within the field of customer involvement in service development, divided in four sections. The first section begins with a discussion on customer‐involvement in service innovation by introducing the field, and presenting overall pictures, examples, and data. In this, Ian Alam provides an introduction to the interaction with customers by looking at the reasons behind this interplay in service innovation. Besides, making a clear case of the importance and potential benefits of interacting with customers he also moves on to present a framework. The framework touches upon several issues such as how interaction occurs, which customers should be involved, and also problems related to interaction. He concludes that organizations need to adopt a customer interaction strategy as a key element in their innovation activities. Next, Bodil Sanden, Anders Gustafsson, and Lars Witell present interesting data on how companies interact with their customers. They argue that even though customer‐involvement for the purpose of customer input in the service innovation process had many advocates, little is actually known about what companies do. They are presenting a study aiming at providing a basic knowledge about the customer's role in new service development. In the following chapter, Ulf Mannervik and Rafael Ramirez offer a strategic perspective on customers as co‐innovators. Their chapter presents a typology of different approaches to customer co‐innovation, and then suggests a strategic and systematic model for managing co‐innovation. In his contribution, Evert Gummesson departs from a network approach to marketing in his chapter. This places an emphasis on all relationships that are entered into a marketing process. The chapter offers several thought‐provoking examples of these types of relationships from a customer‐involvement perspective.

The second section focuses on a customer‐involvement project in the early phase of innovation, the so‐called the customer driven IT (CuDIT) studies. This was a joint project between CTF in Karlstad and major telecom companies in Sweden for several years in the early millennium. The CuDIT project has thereafter continued with new studies to focus customer‐involvement in service innovation. The first chapter by Jonas Matthing, Bodil Sandén, and Bo Edvardsson draws upon theory from market and learning orientation in conjunction with a service‐centered model and reviews the literature on involvement of the customer in innovation. In the next CuDIT chapter, Per Kristensson presents some of the theoretical issues on which the CuDIT project was based. He argues that traditional methods often do not perform well in their search for innovative ideas. To find innovative ideas in customer interaction is a matter of how and where you ask. The chapter offers some basic principles for customer cooperation in market research. The third chapter in this section of the CuDIT study is written by Peter Magnusson. His article studies the benefits of user involvement in the ideation phase. The chapter discusses the effects of involving users in creating new service ideas for mobile telephony.

The third section illustrates a number of cases of customer‐involvement from a method point of view. In this section Per Echeverri poses the question of when to collect data – before, during, or after the customer's experience, and furthermore, what to collect involves an assessment of the relevant factors and social mechanisms to explore. He also questions as to how to collect empirical data as it involves assessments of methods that provide a realistic representation of what really happens “out there.” The chapter illustrates some of these problems through a study of passengers using a public‐transport service. In the next chapter, Fredrik Dahlsten analyzes customer‐involvement within the new product development process at Volvo Cars. The study shows that customer‐involvement success is highly contextual and needs well‐adapted management attention. The author argues that there needs to be a willingness to experiment in the development work, allowing for customer‐involvement to complement conventional market research. The chapter by Hans Björkman addresses the issue of managing user ideas. He suggests there is a need for prescriptive models and methods for enhancing the organizational utilization of knowledge attained from users.

In the fourth and final section, three cases from different businesses are presented. Rainer Nägele provides a case study on customer‐oriented service engineering procedures and methods. In the next chapter, Christiane Hipp and Cornelius Herstatt discusses intellectual property rights. In the last chapter of this section, Frank Hull, Bo Edvardsson, and Chris Story's chapter elaborates upon a model of internal product development by adding measures of co‐involvement by external companies.

Involving Customers in New Service Development is a well‐structured and well‐grounded book. According to the authors, the purpose of this book is to provide an understanding of state‐of‐the‐art in the field by presenting results from service management research and business development emphasizing customer‐involvement in action. This purpose is also achieved by the different chapters written by researchers engaged in customer involvement research who gives different perspectives of how and why customers should be involved in the development of services. Besides, the contribution from leading researchers, the introduction chapter gives a nice starting point for the whole book, by giving an introducing what customer involvement is and why it is of importance to engage in. Throughout the book, some clear and consistent messages are given.

This book has many benefits for its readers and as being a researcher within the service development area, I strongly advise the reading of this book to all who in some way are interested in the concept of service and how to create value through service in general and to those who are in the field of service development in particular. The book is suitable for executive and management development programs at business schools and institutes as well as for MBA and masters programs at business schools and technical universities. The book is also of distinct interest for reflective managers and executives working with marketing, business development, strategy, as well as service and product development.

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