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Developer - Customer Communication in Successful New Service Development

Athanassopoulou, P. (2001). Developer - Customer Communication in Successful New Service Development. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


In today’s highly competitive, rapidly changing environment customer’s role has become very important in fast service production and delivery. Customers’ input is supplied through a communication effort between developer and customer and developer-customer communication is shown to be critical for successful new service development (NSD). Therefore, we need to determine how such communication might be managed best for NSD success. This thesis investigates the way new service developers communicate with their customers and identifies communication skills associated with outstanding success in NSD. We focus in particular on communication between developers and their “lead users” (or customers) as defined by von Hippel (1986, 1989).

The study draws on the Relationship Marketing and NSD literatures to develop a propositional framework concerning the skills developer companies possess in communicating with their lead customers. We use descriptive case research based on multiple case studies drawn from a purposive sample of 9 leasing companies of which 5 belong to a highly successful (HS) group and 4 to a less successful (LS) group. Higher and lower success is measured according to the three criteria advanced by Brown and Eisenhardt (1997) as being important in measuring NSD performance in highly competitive and rapidly changing markets: (i) on time to market; (ii) on target to market; and (iii) on schedule internally. Data collection was done in two phases. The first was based on a structured questionnaire mailed to pre-identified respondents and the second on a personal interview with the same respondents in order to clarify issues that emerged from the questionnaire data and for gaining additional qualitative insights. Data analysis used both quantitative and qualitative techniques.

Results showed that HS developers use more new technology communication methods, communicate more intensively and involve more of their functions and employees in the communication effort throughout the NSD process, whereas LS follow a less intensive, less new technology-based, and less integrative communication strategy and concentrate communication in the final phase of NSD. Also, results suggested that: (i) Companies with configurational characteristics that are associated with success in the literature are more likely to have the right communication skills, and (ii) HS developers follow a customer-driven NSD strategy whereas LS developers pursue a supplier-driven strategy. Also, two major differences between the two groups are: (i) the amount of communication with customers throughout the NSD process and the level of bureaucracy present in approval procedures, and (ii) that the HS practice proactive communication and use a cross-functional team that communicates directly with customers whereas the LS are passive to the market and customers are communicated indirectly through one department or salesperson. By drawing on the results we developed a revised propositional framework showing that there are three major types of skills in communication that can be associated with higher NSD success: (i) Skills in using information from communication; (ii) Skills in managing the communication process, and (iii) Skills in selecting and using actors in the communication process. Also, the configurational characteristics of developers as well as the type of NSD strategy adopted may influence the level of skills in communication. Results helped advance theory on developer-customer communication but also supported previous findings. This study is limited to a small, purposive sample and incremental NSD and data is collected from single respondents. However, results provide guidance for future research needed to validate our results in other contexts, identify further dimensions of communication relationships, develop a model for effective developer-customer communication, and determine the role of new technology in such communication

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
T Technology
Departments: Bayes Business School > Bayes Business School Doctoral Theses
Bayes Business School > Management
Doctoral Theses
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