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Spinosa Customer Needs

Spinosa Customer Needs

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Published by: quiroz_alonso on Aug 09, 2010
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10/29/2010

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1
 Article 13
Taking an
E
XPANDED
 
View of CustomersNeeds:
 
Qualitative Research for Aiding Innovation
Social value-focused interviews can uncover customers’ real desires for newproducts and help yield critical insights for innovations.
By Maria F. Flores Letelier, Charles Spinosa, and Bobby J. Calder 
M
arketing practitioners and theorists have recognizedthe limited ability of marketing research to generate inno-vative product concepts. A common complaint of manag-ers is that marketing research does not allow them to decidewhether a radical innovation will succeed in the market-place or not. Consumers can discuss potential innovationsin focus groups and respond to surveys, and the results willbe repeatable. But managers still feel as though the resultsare insufficient to understand what consumers will do. Inmany cases, a product has failed even though extensive re-search showed customers had the need and favorable quan-titative concept tests showed the product met the need.Other times, competitors have been able to innovate in so-called saturated markets where management believed thatno need existed for a new product. Therefore, most manag-ers end up believing that managerial intuition is better thancustomer research for the case of innovative concepts.Most market researchers and strategic theorists would al-low that the limit has to do with the capability of consumers tosay what they really want or to predict how they will really be-have. According to Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad, “[M]arketresearch carried out around a new product or service conceptis notoriously inaccurate … and is of little use in helping acompany better target its development efforts around emerg-ing markets.” (See Additional Reading) With new ideas, tech-nologies, and innovations of any kind—with anythingunfamiliar to a particular market—research cannot determinehow people will act. Leonard, Wyner, and others have led in-novative thinking around research for unknown customer cat-egories. They have shown us the importance of understandingcustomers’ “unarticulated needs” through customer observa-tion and by using more than one conventional technique toinvestigate issues that customers will have a difficult timeexpressing.In observing market research directed toward new-prod-uct generation in more than 100 high-performance compa-nies over the past five years, we have learned that mostcompanies receive weak results because they attempt to lis-ten for one, single consistent voice from customers, onethat clearly expresses a need for a particular product. Theproblem with this approach is that it completely misses akey resource that qualitative customer interviews can pro-vide. Namely, research can identify those areas in custom-ers’ lives related to a product category where customersexpress conflict or ambivalence. Such ambivalence coversnot only what they need from the product category, but alsotheir goals and the meaning they receive from the categoryin the context of the rest of their lives. These ignored ex-pressions present opportunities for producing market-creat-ing innovations that most companies today overlook.In this article, we first present an expanded view of cus-tomers’ needs that will allow researchers to explore theconflicts among certain kinds of values since these conflictslie behind the ambivalences and inconsistent expressions.We then present techniques, which we call “ArticulativeInterviewing Techniques,” that can be used along with cus-tomer observation and other market research techniques touncover value conflicts. Finally, we show how findingsfrom articulative interviews can be used to design innova-tive product concepts. Managers do not need to rely on in-tuition alone; customers can in fact reveal quite a bit aboutthe directions in which they are changing and, conse-quently, about new products they will bring into their lives.
 
ANNUAL EDITIONS
2
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OCIALLY
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RIENTING
V
ALUES
 
AND
 C
ONFLICTS
 
AMONG
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A different approach to primary customer research, par-ticularly interviews with customers, can help managers de-sign strategic, market-creating innovations with whichcustomers have no experience. This approach enables re-searchers to gain insights about the conflict among what wecall “orienting values” that emerge through social change.Orienting values, a term based on the work of philoso-pher Charles Taylor, are a class of values that people hold.We draw the term “orientating value” from his term “strongevaluation.” The term value here is not being used in aneconomic sense, but rather in the philosophical sense. Anorienting value is one that orients our general sense of aworthwhile life, one that is socially estimable or not estima-ble. A person might value the pleasure of owning and wear-ing a certain skirt, but is unlikely to orient a life around that.Being a serious professional, however, might be one valuethat orients a person’s life. Other values such as the pleasureof a hot red, satin skirt would be evaluated and acted on inrelation to the orienting value. Unlike other values, orient-ing values are bipolar. The opposite of an orienting value isinestimable or unworthy and experienced as contemptibleor disgusting. A professional person is disgusted by herlapses into unprofessional behavior. A person who seeks tobe cutting edge rejects all that is not cutting edge. We willnot discuss these philosophical views here in detail; ourpoint is that market researchers can learn a lot from explor-ing orienting values and how they change for understand-ing consumer behavior.The orienting values that customers hold change withhistory. Let us look at the changes in orienting values thataffected how people esteemed cars in the last two decades.Few would doubt that the BMW was the upper-middle-class car of the 1980s, meaning not that BMWs brought inthe most revenue but rather that BMWs represented thestandard against which other cars were judged. The BMWwas the high-performance, optimizing car. Desiring aBMW was worthwhile because it showed that a personcared about the orienting value of high performance. In the1990s, however, sport-utility vehicles such as the RangeRover and Jeep Cherokee became the ideal cars. These carsbring out the orienting evaluation of flexible optimization.They are still high-performance cars, as high performancestill matters in many domains of our lives (such as work).But these cars also reflect today’s more flexible lifestyles;they reveal multiple personal roles such as relaxed familymember, adventurous hiker, and high-performance careerperson.Customers will often hold conflicting orienting values.Such conflicts reveal how customers are changing andhence offer insights into innovative offer concepts. We caneasily see how being responsible can come into conflictwith being free. Desiring a Honda Accord is good becauseit allows a person to feel responsible, but a Ferrari is goodbecause it lets the driver feel free. The Mazda Miata wasone response to this conflict. It was responsible enough inprice, quality, and gas consumption and yet allowed thefreedom of taking off in a roadster. Successful breakthroughproducts resolve these conflicts.
A
RTICULATIVE
I
NTERVIEWING
The best method market researchers can employ to listenfor and to identify key conflicts in orienting values is a practiceof qualitative group interviewing called articulative interview-ing. We call this interviewing articulative because it draws in-terviewees to articulate orienting values and their inherentconflicts, which might otherwise seem inexpressible.Articulative interviewing, unlike standard consumer re-search, is structured so as to elicit narratives as opposed tothe factual truth. Standard focus-group interviewers attemptto design interviews to generate “objective” results, which,for investigating consumers’ relationship to products withwhich they have experience, are crucial. However, in artic-ulative interviewing the point is to uncover what consum-ers find worthy and unworthy in their lives, and the bestsource of this material is the narrative matter that partici-pants provide about how they live in particular roles and incertain domains of activity. Whether these narratives areaccurate or populated with small infelicities, narratives re-veal the values that participants esteem or dislike. As inter-viewees tell their narratives, they also get themselves andothers in touch with the important roles that they play. Sotheir conversations become increasingly molded by thevalues relevant to the product category.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Market research is limited in generating innovative productconcepts because of the consumers’ inability to say whatthey really want or how they will really behave. Our workshows that research can generate successful product con-cepts by focusing on consumers’ ambivalent and confusedexpressions. “Articulative Interviewing Techniques” revealthe conflicts among “orienting evaluations” that lie behindambivalent and inconsistent expressions. Market research-ers and managers can, in turn, use conflict analysis to pro-duce successful, new product concepts.
 
Article 13. Taking an E
XPANDED
View of Customers’ Needs: Qualitative Research for Aiding Innovation
3
Narratives enable articulative interviewers to raisequestions about the parts of the story that were left outand tend to bring out expressions of conflict. The past-present-future structure of a narrative allows the re-searcher to identify which values are changing. By askingthe participants about the context of a story, the inter-viewer brings the participants to describe how the differ-ent roles they hold are in conflict and produce seeminglyinsoluble dilemmas.Most conflicts among orienting values can be identifiedby exercising four basic listening and analytical tech-niques for identifying orienting values and four other tech-niques for articulating conflicts among orienting values.As a practical matter, identification of orienting valuestakes place best in one-to-one interviews. In practice, it isbest to begin such interviewing by finding an informantlike the kind anthropologists use. An informant knows theproduct category well, has a wide range of friends in thesegment to whom he or she gives advice, likes talkingfrankly about the product category, and is sensitive to thedifferences in understanding between him or herself andthe researcher. Once one-to-one interviews have uncov-ered orienting values, group interviewing is best for get-ting at shared social conflicts in orienting values. Groupsassembled by the informant work best. The informantserves as the investigator’s connection to the group of cus-tomers being interviewed and draws together acquaintan-ces who already share similar orienting values. With sucha group, trust is quickly built, and, consequently, authen-tic life narratives are revealed. Ideally, the group shouldbe small (three-five people); the interview should last oneand a half to two hours; and the researcher should takesteps to ensure that [the] group shares a trust-buildinglevel of similarity.By understanding these techniques, strategists, manag-ers, and market researchers can take lead roles to producemarket-changing innovations in products and services. Ul-timately, listening to value conflicts is a visionary skill thatshould be developed in the strategic and marketing areas of an organization.
F
OUR
T
ECHNIQUES
 
FOR
I
DENTIFYING
O
RIENTING
V
ALUES
Technique 1
:
Question the obvious and listen for difference.Standard market research is meant to be objective, investi-gators are supposed to keep any preconceived assumptionsthey may have regarding their interviewees from interferingwith the interview process. However, researchers cannotidentify their interviewees’ orienting values in a value-freeor value-neutral way. So they learn rather to identify whichof their own values they will use to identify their inter-viewees’ values. The interviewer’s recognition of his or herown cultural or subculturally distinctive values makes thediffering values of others intelligible in the first place. Forinstance, in interviewing parents from different cultures andeconomic classes, we have learned that all parents willclaim something seemingly universal: “I want what is bestfor my children. And that is that they do well in life.” Whatthis means, however, varies greatly. By listening for differ-ence from our own orienting values and thereby question-ing the obvious, we were able to learn that, in middle-classMexican culture, “doing well” means visibly achieving thenext economic class status without regard to calling. Inlow-income Mexican culture, “doing well” means that thechildren will have their own home without regard towhether it came by good fortune or hard work.We have been able to identify the significantly differentshadings of “doing well” among different economic groupsin Mexico by simply questioning the obvious Americanmeaning of “doing well,” that is, achieving one’s dreams orbeing fully independent. An interviewer who assumed thatindividualism was part of human constitution would missthe point of what “doing well” meant to Mexicans. Anotherexample from newly arrived Mexicans is their responsewhen asked what they miss most about Mexico: “One feelsfree in Mexico.” Taken as a straight response, a U.S. inter-viewer might understand freedom to mean spontaneous in-dependence or the desire to do what one wishes. However,upon listening for difference, a listener would understandthat dedication to family and friends, not independence, isprecisely the Mexican way of experiencing freedom. Theymight say, “There is a lot of time left over in Mexico. Thereis no routine. One finishes work, and walks over to afriend’s house in the evening.”By acknowledging peoples’ tendency to listen according totheir own dominant values (such as a love of individualism),researchers can learn to listen to people from other culturesand subcultures. To uncover a key orienting value (e.g., free-dom means dedication to family), an articulative interviewerhas to attend to his or her own weaker or marginal values suchas family dependence. Listening with these orienting values inmind directs a line of questioning that elicits what is meant by“doing well in life” or by “being free.” Thus, a listener can be-gin to explore how seemingly obvious statements can havemeanings that are quite different from the ones the interviewerassumes. Whenever something sounds obvious and right, the

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