1a. Risks and limitations of listening to customers during the NPD process:
Using existing organizational systems often means completely missing the boat on the real customer and his real needs. This is the customer who values the products as a breakthrough. Products are frequently under-appreciated by firms when the new product is based on an existing platform. This leads to a wait and see attitude and the product is not given adequate support and often under-priced.
The positioning strategy should be driven by the market, rather than by the ambitions of the product champions. The source of the problem is failure to understand how consumers' value product attributes. In all, over-appreciating a breakthrough or new technology that cannot be appreciated by consumers. This accounts for a high percentage of product failures.
Listening to customers can mask long-run opportunities since customers rarely imagine these technologies.
When customers are asked to make new product recommendations they tend to run into at least two kinds of blocks. The first is functional fixedness, the human tendency to fixate on the way products or services are normally used, making people unable to imagine alternative functions. People may not be able to conceive of a solution because they have apparently contradictory needs. The voice of the customer is very important, but discerning the difference between what customers are able to say and what they want demands that companies learn to go well beyond listening.
Disruptive technologies suggest that some ideas should be developed despite current lack of fit with the market.
1b. Techsonic was not particularly vulnerable to all these risks and limitations. They always started with focus groups to find out what their next move would be. In many cases these focus groups were the steps to success. The findings from these studies were complete opposite from what Techsonic had always assumed their customers wanted in a product. These success products made listening to the customer the foundation of the company's culture. The customer was placed at the top of the organizational chart and management started to believe that their lack of fishing experience was an advantage. Others in the industry thought they knew what the customer wanted, but Techsonic was the only one who actually asked and listened. They continued with focus groups to find the answers to the next product generation. Techsonic was soon to be shocked that their customers wanted simpler products with less buttons and features. Listening to customers can mask long-run opportunities because customers rarely imagine new technologies. Although Techsonic had pioneered many of the innovations in the industry, many of its dealers perceived MorPal as the technological leader. They considered the Humminbird brand to be a good value with high customer acceptance. Techsonic had many products that did not fit exactly what the market wanted and they soon realized that the solution to these customers' needs lay in a new technology. They were able to use what they learned in the focus groups to improve on the technology of their products and take them back to the customer. It is not necessary for the customers to always imagine the new technologies; they give Techsonic the vision to create.
1c. Techsonic's success comes from their loyal customer interest with market studies. The company's founder Yank Dean IV believed in the company's potential to develop better products for the customers. Jim Balkcom, vice president, had a vision focused on growth through new products and customer loyalty through outstanding service from the beginning. The deliberate effort to research their customer base was the beginning of Techsonic's success. They always went to the customer with a prototype or specific product questions. The results were used to develop a new technological product focused on what the customer desired. Before the use of these focus...
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