Demand, Users and Innovation
Edited by Rod Coombs, Ken Green, Albert Richards and Vivien Walsh
Leslie Haddon and Gerd Paul INTRODUCTION Currently there is a boom in the management literature on the topic of ‘customer-orientation’. A random exploration of some contributions shows that their arguments are often based on examples drawn from business cases or anecdotes of everyday experience and events where the customer was treated as a nuisance and his or her interests were not taken into consideration at all. These arguments then often go on to draw very general conclusions, making some critical notes on how to improve the organization of the production or of the distribution chain in order to improve the interaction between the customer related inter-ﬁrm departments. Such analyses often present examples of the ‘best practice’ which have been achieved by successful companies1 which, we are told, know how to segment their customers. It is pointed out how such ﬁrms employ adequate empirical methods to assess customer needs, deﬁne their marketing mix accordingly, run customer services well (for example, via hotlines, complaint management) and have incentives and programmes to convert their ﬁrst contact customers into steady customers (RKW, 1996). In industry, especially as a consequence of efforts to promote Total Quality Management, programmes such as ‘customer focus’ have now been running for some years. But as we know from our own experience in the ﬁeld of industrial software (Konrad and Paul, 1999), these have not affected market shares substantially. All the good advice offered in the business literature and in the discourse about customers within corporations seems to...
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