A Framework for Assessing the Appropriateness of a Customer-centric Strategy and its Outcomes aimed at Improving Product Development and Service Design

  • Chinomso Nwagboso

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Research has shown that overall business performance of UK customer-centric companies is falling, and the associated research question that addresses this is ‘to what extent can usability serve as a basis for customer-centric strategy measurement to help improve business performance’.
    A key task of the research was therefore to construct a framework that would assist managers of customer-centric manufacturing and service businesses, in measuring the appropriateness and outcomes of their strategies for improving product and service design through the use of usability targets. These improvements then have the potential to enhance business performance.
    Usability was introduced in the research to determine if it was an appropriate basis for measurement, and if so, how it could be applied for the purpose of strategy measurement. The goal was to help companies ensure that customer-centric strategies are appropriate and properly implemented, and that customer-centric businesses are made aware of the requirements of customer-centricity.
    Firstly, a study was conducted to assess the relevance and shortcomings of existing strategic management tools for strategy measurement. The reason for this was to ensure that the framework developed in this work filled the gaps that these models did not address, and to answer research question 1. A number of tools were selected based on the review of literature. Results from a survey completed by 103 managers of manufacturing and service businesses involved in the development and implementation of strategy showed that there were more shortcomings than benefits in using these tools for the measurement of strategies which were aimed at improving product development and service design. Of the 15 tools, the most seemingly appropriate was the Balanced Scorecard because of its evaluation attributes, but however, it could not effectively measure customer experience. As example, the tools do not aid in measuring the friendliness of products or services, or how a business culture for improved customer experience could be enhanced, or if necessary, changes needed in order to deliver the strategy.
    Another study was conducted to show the importance of achieving strategic fit to help ensure successful innovation and knowledge management, which were the measures of business performance in this research. Confirmation of this importance informed the framework design such that use of the framework would help enable businesses to achieve strategic fit, answering research question 2. Strategic fit means that internal resources are aligned to meeting the needs of the external environment. In this sense, it means that businesses are using their resources properly for the purpose of effective knowledge management and of innovation. When analysed, results from the survey showed that although they identified threats to their performances, many of these businesses do not properly manage these threats. As a result, they had not been innovative or effectively managing knowledge. Thus, further proved the need for a framework. A Factor Analysis of all the survey results deduced relevant strategies to enable companies to be truly customercentric. The first framework was developed based on usability goals and measures determined from literature. It was then updated by matching these customer-centric strategies to the usability goals and measures to help in achieving the objectives three to five. These objectives related to the development and application of usability methods for strategy measurement, proposing a framework for improving product and service development strategies, and correcting usability problems. This was geared towards answering research question 3.

    Data was collected in two phases of usability testing, showing the factors that contribute to improved user experience. The first phase involved 500 user tests of products and services from 20 companies. When analysed using Content Analysis, the sample size was reduced, by selecting the best and worst performing products and services in terms of user experience. For the second phase of the user tests, the Think Aloud Protocol was applied during the observation of 24 participants, and follow up interviews were then conducted with the users. Factor Analysis was used to analyse the observation data, helping in the organisation of data for the framework. The interview data was then analysed with Template Analysis, helping to identify common themes in user responses.
    The results from this second phase of the usability study were used in developing the third version of the framework which now had goals, measures, corresponding strategies, and targets. The framework was validated by 32 business managers. The validation process had some important outcomes. It showed that the framework is useful in the strategy implementation phase. It also showed the need for more explanation on usability, as many managers do not usually think of this topic. The validation phase also showed no statistical difference between manufacturing and service businesses in terms of relevance and application of the framework. Also, the managers found it relevant for strategy measurement, easy to use, customer-centric, and helpful in achieving desired outcomes. They also gave some feedback as to what should be improved, and this was reflected in the final version of the framework.
    This final version was then tested by three businesses. A University, a retail store, and a furniture manufacturer. The managers were interviewed to gain an understanding of their strategies, so that the strategies could be measured. Their customers were interviewed and were observed using the products and services, and were assessed using the framework. As a result of the test process, company problems with service and product design were found. A number of strategies that had been implemented were identified as appropriate, and these were yielding successful outcomes. The framework confirms and contributes to standards for customer-centricity. The managers found the framework was useful because they were able to see where they had been performing well or underperforming. Managers were able to identify what was working well in terms of customercentricity, and what areas of their product and service development required improvement.
    Managers now have a structure and targets to keep in mind when designing their products or services.
    The results from all the phases of the research were collated and an implementation guide for managers was created. It incorporates an updated version of the framework along with definitions, processes, and requirements for its use. Apart from the many benefits and areas of practical application identified through validation and testing, the framework is novel and useful because customers’ subjective and behavioural experiences and interactions with businesses, can now be measured quantitatively to show the performance of products and service design strategies, thereby creating the opportunity for business performance improvement.
    Date of AwardApr 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorPeter Every (Supervisor)

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