Logical Aggregation of Customer Needs Assessment

1


A product development process usually starts with a
customer needs assessment, wherein the opinions of a
selected segment of potential customers
(respondents) are aggregated to know which features
of a product are useful to what extent in fulfilling the
underlying customer needs. Due to the intrinsic
complexity of product features and personal taste
and level of motivation of respondents, the opinions
obtained exhibit a high variability and controversy.
Therefore, for aggregating the opinions toward an
effective decision-making, a logical approach is
needed, replacing a simple frequency based approach.
This study presents the logical formulations needed
to aggregate the Kano model based customer needs
assessment so as to classify a product feature into the
following categories: the feature “must,” “should,”
and/or “could” be included in the product. A set of
field data has been collected from Bangladesh using
Kano-model-based questionnaires. The answers of
the respondents are analyzed using the proposed
logical approach. In particular, it is shown that SUV
(a feature) is the most desirable type of cars in
Bangladesh followed by Sedan and Van. The results
are useful for automobile manufacturers so as to
develop more customer-focused passenger vehicles
for developing countries.

Keywords: Product Development, Customer Needs,
Kano Model, Fuzzy Logic, Information Content
1. INTRODUCTION
A product development process starts with the customer
needs assessment, providing a set of useful guidelines for
satisfying the needs of a segment of customers [1]. The
guidelines are used in the subsequent processes of
product realization (design, manufacturing, and alike).
Usually, a selected segment of potential customers
(hereinafter referred to as respondents) are asked to
answer a set of questions to know which features of a
product (or a family of products) are useful to what
extent for satisfying the underlying customer needs [1-5].
Since the personal taste and motivation of respondents
are not the same, a great deal of variability is seen in the
answers [3-4].
Sometimes, the answers of some respondents are
unavailable because the respondents didn’t answer on
time or answered at all [4-5]. Sometimes, the answers
don’t make sense (controversial or questionable answers).
Sometimes, the answers are less informative, i.e., the
respondents just took a neutral position (less
opinionative answers). Therefore, frequency based
simple calculation is not enough for aggregating the
answers of the respondents for a useful assessment.
There are studies that deal with the simulation of
unknown answers [4-5] providing a means of dealing
with answers more accurately. In addition, it is important
to deal with the uninformative and/or controversial
answers in such a way so that the informative answers get
their proper attention. In this respect, it is important to
understand the answers not only in the sense of simple
frequency based analysis but also in the sense of logic
based analysis. Based on this contemplation this article is
written. The remainder of this article is organized as
follows: Section 2 describes some entities that are needed
for a better understanding of the arguments used in the
subsequent sections. Section 3 describes logical
formulations that are needed to aggregate the customer
needs assessment. Section 4 describes the results and
discuses the implication of the results. Section 5
concludes this study.
2. PRELIMINARIES
This section describes some mathematical entities that
are needed for a better understanding of the arguments
used in this article.
2.1. State of a Product Feature
While obtaining the answers of respondents, one can use
questionnaires, as preferred. Finally, the product features
should be classified into the following four categories:
- whether or not the feature must be included in the
product
- whether or not the feature should be included in
the product
- whether or not the feature could be included in the
product
- whether or not the feature is a unreliable feature
(i.e., feature provides controversial opinions)
Therefore, the final states of a feature are must be
included, should be included, could be included, and
unreliable. This provides a set called, State = {must be
included, should be included, could be included,
unreliable}.
Md. Mamunur Rashid
*1
, A. M. M. Sharif Ullah
*1
, M. A. Rashid Sarkar
*2
, Jun’ichi Tamaki
*1

and Akihiko Kubo
*1

*1
Kitami Institute of Technology, Kitami, Hokkaido, Japan
E-mail: dse10831@std.kitami-it.ac.jp, {ullah,tamaju,kuboak}@mail.kitami-it.ac.jp
*2
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Dhaka, Bangladesh
E-mail: rashid@me.buet.ac.bd

Logical Aggregation of Customer Needs Assessment
Logical Aggregation of Customer Needs Assessment


2


2.2. Degree of Belief of a Product Feature
Let p(F
i
,S
j
) be a proposition: F
i
is S
j
, where F
i
is a feature,
and S
j
is a state drawn from State, i.e., S
j
e State. Let T be
a process
( ) ( )
j i
T
j i
S F DoB S F p , , ÷÷ ÷ (1)
that determines the Degree of Belief (DoB) of each
preposition p(F
i
,S
j
), i, j = 1,2,…, DoB(.,.) e [0,1]. This
means that each proposition p(F
i
,S
j
) has a truth value (or
DoB) in the interval [0,1] and T determines it. The nature
of T is explained in Section 3.
The DoB of a compound proposition can be determined
as follows:
( ) ( )
( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( )
( ) ( )
j i j i
k i j i
k i j i
j i j i
S F DoB S h F p
S F DoB S F DoB
S F p S F p
S F DoB S F p
, ,
, , , max
, ,
, ,
÷ ·
÷ v
÷ ÷ ÷ 1
(2)
In equation (2), S
k
is a state drawn from State and h is a
hedge called “more or less” or “somewhat.” For example,
consider that sedan = F
i
(a feature of a car) and the
propositions: p(sedan, must be included), p(sedan,
should be included), p(sedan, could be included), and
p(sedan, unreliable). The DoBs are as follows:
DoB(sedan, must be included) = 0.2, DoB(sedan, should
be included) = 0.7, DoB(sedan, could be included) = 0.95,
and DoB(sedan, unreliable) = 0.05. This means that it is
“quite false” (DoB = 0.2) that the car “must be a sedan
type car.” Similarly, it is “somewhat true” (DoB = 0.7)
that the car “should be a sedan type car.” It is “mostly
true” (DoB = 0.95) that the car “could be a sedan type
car.” It is “mostly false” (DoB = 0.05) that the opinion
obtained on sedan type car is unreliable, i.e., it is mostly
false that the opinion obtained on sedan type car is
unreliable.
2.3. Linguistic Truth Values of a Feature
A linguistic truth value of a crisp DoB is its linguistic
interpretation or counterpart. A linguistic counterpart (L(c))
of a crisp DoB (c = DoB(F
i
,.)) is given as
( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) c L c LT DoB
F DoB c
l
l
i
÷
=
=  , ,
max
,.
2 1
(3)
In this study, a set of seven linguistic truth values (LT)
are considered that are given by the membership
functions (or DoBs) of seven fuzzy numbers labeled
“mostly false (mf),” “quite false (qf),” “somewhat false
(sf),” “neither true nor false (tf),” “somewhat true (st),”
“quite true (qt),” and “mostly true (mt),” as illustrated in
Fig. 1.
0
0.5
1
0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1
D
o
B
(
L
T
)
c
mf qf sf tf st qt mt

Figure 1. Linguistic Truth Values.
According to the definition illustrated in Fig. 1, if c =
[0,0.05] then the linguistic counterpart of c is mostly
false (mf), if c = (0.05,0.2], then the linguistic counterpart
of c is quite false (qf), if c = (0.2,0.4], then the linguistic
counterpart of c is some false, if c = (0.4,0.6] then the
linguistic counterpart of c is neither true nor false (tf), if c
= (0.6,0.8] then the linguistic counterpart of c is
somewhat true (st), if c = (0.8,0.95], then the linguistic
counterpart of c is quite true (qt), and if c = (0.95,1], then
the linguistic counterpart of c is mostly true (mt). A
linguistic counterpart of c (i.e., L(c)) has its expected
(crisp) value (E(L(c))) that is often calculated by the
centroid method. The expected values of the linguistic
true values shown in Fig. 1 are as follows: E(mf(c)) =
0.033, E(qf(c)) = 0.133, E(sf(c)) = 0.3, E(tf(c)) = 0.5,
E(st(c)) = 0.7, E(qt(c)) = 0.867, and E(mt(c)) = 0.967.
These expected values are considered in the final
aggression process described in Section 4.
3. LOGICAL AGGREGATION PROCESS
This section describes the logical processes (i.e., the
processes that define T in equation (1)) that are needed to
aggregate the answers of respondents. The goal is to
classify a product feature into the classes drawn from
State. The aggregation process relies on DoBs, as defined
in equation (1). The DoBs can also be processed by the
formulations in equations (2) and (3). Since the answers
of respondents are obtained by using a definite customer
needs model, the logical formulations must be consistent
in terms of the underlying customer needs model. This
means that the logical aggregation processes are
customer needs model dependent. In this study, Kano
model [2-5] is used to obtain the answers of respondents.
Therefore, the logical formulations for aggregating the
Kano-model-based answers of respondents are
considered below.
3.1. Dealing with less opinionative answers
Sometimes, the underlying customer needs model
provokes a respondent to answer in a less opinionative
manner. Such answers are not useful for making a
decision, and, thereby could be avoided during the
aggregation process. This is explained below from the
context of Kano model [2-5].

Logical Aggregation of Customer Needs Assessment


3


Satisfied
Not Satisfied
Not Present
Present
O
A
R
M
I
I

Figure 2. Kano model.
Table 1. Classification of F
i
based on present-not-present answers.
Not Present
(÷)
Present (+)
Like Must-be Neutral Live-with Dislike
Like Q A A A O
Must-be R I I I M
Neutral R I I I M
Live-with R I I I M
Dislike R R R R Q

The Kano model is shown in Fig. 2 that classifies a
product feature F
i
into one of the following classes: Class
= {One-dimensional (O), Attractive (A), Must-be (M),
Indifferent (I), Reverse (R), Questionable (Q)}. As seen
from Fig. 2, a feature is considered Must-be, if its
absence produces absolute dissatisfaction and its
presence does not increase the satisfaction. A feature is
considered One-dimensional, if its fulfillment helps
increase the satisfaction and vice versa. A feature is
considered Attractive, if it leads to a greater satisfaction,
whereas it is not expected to be in the product. A feature
is considered Indifferent, if its presence or absence does
not contribute to the customers' satisfaction. A feature is
considered Reverse if its presence causes dissatisfaction
and vice versa [2-5]. To know whether F
i
is one of the
classes drawn from Class, a respondent needs to answer
two questions. One of the question deals with when F
i
is
present in the product and the other deals with when F
i
it
not present in the product. The respondent needs to
choose an answers drawn from Answer = {Like, Must-be,
Neutral, Live-with, Dislike} for both questions [2-5].
The relationship between the two-answer and
classification is listed in Table 1[2-5].
Note the row and column in Table 1 marked by dark
colors that refer to the answer called Neutral for both
cases (Present and Not Present). Due to the lack of
motivation and/or comprehensibility, the respondent
tends to answer this option. The goal is to get an
opinionative answer not an indecisive answer (Neutral).
Thus, if an answer is found to be Neutral either for
Present or for Not Present, the answer is ignored.
3.2. Probability-Possibility transformation
If we know the answers of the respondents, we know the
relative frequencies of a feature F
i
in terms of O, A, M, I,
R, and Q. A relative frequency (f
r
(F
i
,C
k
)) of a feature F
i

in terms of C
k
e (O, A, M, I, R, Q) is not the truth value
or DoB of the proposition "F
i
is C
k
." It is possible to
determine the DoB using the information of relative
frequency. To do this, probability-possibility consistency
principle can be used [6-13]. Probability-possibility
consistency principle implies that the degree of
possibility (or degree of belief) is always greater than or
equal to the degree of probability, i.e., what is probable
must be possible with a higher or equal degree of
possibility, prob(.) s t(.) [6-13]. The degree of
possibility t(.) is actually the Degree of Belief (DoB) or
truth value of a proposition. The degree of probability,
prob(.), is difficult to determine and in most real-life
cases the relative frequencies are taken as an estimation
of degree of probability. Based on this contemplation, the
DoB of C
k
is given as
( )
( )
( ) ( )
k i r
k
k i r
k i
C F f
C F f
C F DoB
, max
,
,
, , 6 1  =
= (4)
In equation (4), f
r
(F
i
,C
k
) denotes the relative frequency of
classification C
k
for the feature F
i
, wherein the answers
containing Neutral is ignored. Since max(f
r
(F
i
,C
k
) | ¬k =
1,…,6) s 1, DoB(F
i
,C
k
) > f
r
(F
i
,C
k
) (~prob(F
i
,C
k
)), i.e.,
the probability-possibility consistency principle holds, if
equation (4) is used. There are other formulations of
probability-possibility transformation [9-13], which are
not considered in this study.
3.3. Logical formulations
Using DoB(F
i
,C
k
) it is possible to find out the DoBs of
the members of State (must be included, should be
included, could be included, and unreliable). In doing so,
it is important to understand the semantics of the
classifications in Table 1, as follows:
If the feature is classified as One-dimensional (O) or
Must-be (M) and it is not included in the product, the
customers are not satisfied. Therefore, a feature “must be
included” in the product means it is “either O or M.” This
leads to the following formulation:
( ) ( )
( )
( ) ( ) ( ) M F DoB O F DoB
included be must F DoB
M is F O is F included be must F
i i
i
i i i
, , , max
, =
v ÷
(5)
If the feature is classified as Attractive (A), it is an
unexpected but customer satisfaction-enriching feature.
Thus, it “should be included” in the product for enriching
the level of customer satisfaction. This yields the
following formulation:
Logical Aggregation of Customer Needs Assessment


4


( )
( ) ( ) A F DoB included be should F DoB
A is F included be should F
i i
i i
, , =
÷
(6)
If the feature is classified as Indifferent (I), it is not
helpful for increasing the customer satisfaction even
though it is included in the product. In addition, if the
feature is Reverse (R), its inclusion in the product creates
a great deal of dissatisfaction. This means that if a feature
is “not I or not R,” it could be included in the product.
This yields the following formulation:
( ) ( )
( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) R F DoB I F DoB
included be could F DoB
R is F I is F
included be could F
i i
i
i i
i
, , , max
,
÷ ÷
=
÷ v ÷
÷
1 1
(7)
Lastly, if the feature is classified as Questionable (Q),
then the answer does not make sense, i.e., it is an
unreliable answer. From this viewpoint, a feature is
unreliable means that it is classified as Q. This yields the
following formulation:
( ) ( ) Q F DoB unreliable F DoB
Q is F unreliable is F
i i
i i
, , =
÷
(8)
4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
This selection describes some numerical results of
customer needs aggregation based on the presented
logical formulations.
4.1. Data collection and processing
In total 100 individuals were asked to answer a set of
questions dealing with different features of small
passenger vehicles (cars). The study was conducted in
Bangladesh in the months of December 2011 to March
2012. The questionnaires were prepared according to
Kano model [3-5]. For this article, a set of 50 answers
were selected at random for three different features of a
passenger vehicle (car): 1) Sedan, 2) Van, and 3) SUV.
The relative frequencies of members of Class for the
product feature Sedan, Van, and SUV are shown in Fig. 3.
Consider the relative frequencies of Sedan shown in Fig.
2. Most of the customers consider that Sedan is an
indifferent (I) feature. This conclusion does not make
sense because a large number of customers in
Bangladesh prefer to use Sedan and they are quite
satisfied with such vehicles. Consider the relative
frequencies of SUV as shown in Fig. 3. Most of the
customers consider that SUV is an indifferent (I) feature.
Similar to the previous case, this conclusion does not
make sense because many vehicle users prefer SUV due
to not-so-good road conditions in Bangladesh.
According to the relative frequencies shown in Fig. 3,
Van is Reverse feature, i.e., most of the customers hate
this type of vehicles. This conclusion is also a unrealistic
conclusion because some users prefer Van due to
large-family-size.


0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
Q R I M O A
r
e
l
a
t
i
v
e

f
r
e
q
u
e
n
c
y
Class
Sedan
SUV
Van

Figure 3. Relative frequencies of the members of Class.
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1
1.2
Q R I M O A
d
e
g
r
e
e

o
f

b
e
l
i
e
f
Class
Sedan
SUV
Van

Figure 4. DoBs of the members of Class.

0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1
1.2
must be
included
should be
included
could be
included
unreliable
d
e
g
r
e
e

o
f

b
e
l
i
e
f
State
Sedan
SUV
Van

Figure 5. DoBs of the members of State.
Therefore, it is not appropriate to make a decision based
on the relative frequency. The alternative is to use the
logical process as described in the previous section. To
apply the logical process, first, DOBs are calculated
using the relative frequencies (see equation (4)), as
shown in Fig. 4. Based on the results in Fig. 4 and the
procedures defined in equations (5)-(8), the DoBs of the
members of State (see State in Section 2) for the features
Sedan, Van, and SUV, are calculated, as shown in Fig. 5.

Logical Aggregation of Customer Needs Assessment


5



Figure 6. Determining information content of the states.
Table 2. Information content of the features.
Requirement
(R
E
)
X
Sedan SUV Van
X must be
included
(0.533,0) (0.383,0) (0.216,0.88)
X should be
included
(0.533,0.772) (0.383,0.32) (0.216,0.88)
X could be
included
(0.533,0.5) (0.383,0.32) (0.216,0)
X somewhat
should be
included
(0.533,0.435) (0.383,0.156) (0.216,0.602)
X must be or
should be
included
(0.533,0.0) (0.383,0) (0.216,0.88)
(CC,RC)

4.2. Evaluation
The final evaluation of Sedan, SUV, and Van are done
based on the information content. The information
content means here an ordered-pair (CC, RC), which has
been found effective in quantifying the epistemic
uncertainty in design [14-17]. Here, CC is called
certainty compliance (or entropy) that measures the
variability in the DoBs of the members of State for a
given feature (Sedan, SUV, or Van) and RC is called
requirement compliance (entropy) that quantifies the
degree of fulfillment of a given requirement. In particular,
the requirement is set by one of the following
propositions (R
E
): X is a must be feature, X is a should be
feature, X is could be feature, X is a somewhat should be
feature, and X is a must be or should be feature. The
system presented in [14,17] for calculating the
information content in terms of (CC,RC) is used here.
The user interface in Fig. 6 shows how the information
content (CC,RC) for the three features are determined. In
particular, the DoBs of must be included, should be
included, could be included, and unreliable, are
interpreted as “mostly false (mf),” “quite false (qf),”
“somewhat false (sf),” “neither true nor false (tf),”
“somewhat true (st),” “quite true (qt),” or “mostly true
(mt).” The linguistic true values are shown in Fig. 1. For
example, case of SUV. For SUV, the linguistic truth
value of must be included is mostly true and the expected
value of mostly true 0.967 is considered the truth value of
The expected values are used in the calculation of
information content.
The expressions of CC and RC as suggested in [14-17]
are customized for this particular case and expressed as
( )
( ) ( )
¦
¦
¹
¦
¦
´
¦
÷
÷
<
÷
÷
=
=
¿
=
otherewise
DoB
DoB
DoB
I
S F DoB I
F CC
c
j
j i c
i
5 . 0 1
1
5 . 0
0 5 . 0
0
4
,
4
1

(9)
( )
( )
( ) ( )
( ) ( )
j i
j
j i
j
E
i
S F DoB b
S F DoB a
R DoB d
otherwise
b a
d a
b d
a d
F RC
, min
, max
1
0
4 1
4 1


=
=
=
=
=
¦
¦
¹
¦
¦
´
¦
÷
÷
<
>
=
(10)
Logical Aggregation of Customer Needs Assessment


6


0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1
0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1
R
C
CC
Sedan
SUV
Van

Figure 7. Variability in the information content.
Must be
included
feature
Should be
included
feature
Could be
included
feature
SUV
Sedan
Van

Figure 8. Relative positions of features.

Table 2 lists the information content of the three features
for different requirements (R
E
). The results listed in
Table 2 are also plotted in Fig. 7. As seen from Fig. 7, the
variability in the information content of SUV is low
compared to those of Sedan and Van. Van exhibits low
information content when it is considered could be
included feature. When requirement is set to must be
included feature or should be included feature, Sedan's
information content becomes low. The same nature is
seen for SUV. As such, the customers in Bangladesh
prefer SUV and Sedan more than they prefer Van. SUV
and Sedan must be included in the passenger vehicle
population. On the other hand, Van could be included in
the passenger vehicle population but not as many as SUV
and Sedan. This means that the presented logical process
is a reliable process for aggregating the customer needs
assessment for product development.
5. CONCLUDING REMARKS
To deal with the intrinsic complexity of customer needs,
logical aggregation of customer opinions is a better
choice compared to that of frequency based analysis.
This faculty of thought is demonstrated to be true by
logically aggregating the field data of customer needs
collected from Bangladesh for small passenger vehicles.
The multi-valued logic plays an important role in the
logical computation. For the sake of a better
understanding, Kano model based customer answers are
considered. Further study can be carried out extending
the presented logical process to models of customer
needs assessment.
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