Assessing the influence of time in transforming customer preferences according to Kano's theory of attractive quality
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Many companies carry out New Product Development initiatives by entrusting the so-called Voice of the Customer. The drivers of innovation tasks result thus those product requirements that are attributed of major importance by samples of customers. The literature illustrates several techniques tailored to manage the data resulting from customer surveys in order to design products and services ensuring the maximum level of satisfaction. Among the most structured methods, the procedures introduced within Kano´s theory of attractive quality allow to estimate how product requirements affect two nuances of customer satisfaction, namely the capability to avoid severe discontent and the possibility to make users excited. Quantitative measures ease decision-making in the following New Product Development phases. Nevertheless, such a model does not allow to overcome some of the deficiencies of innovation tools based on customers’ feedback. The literature highlights the impact of customer preferences´ dynamics. This phenomenon calls into the question the assumptions made at the beginning of New Product Development tasks, especially when much time elapses from the beginning of the project to the market launch. Developments of Kano´s theory try to address this problem by introducing evolutionary models of quality attributes, i.e. the categories that classify product requirements in terms of their role in determining customer satisfaction. These dynamic mechanisms lack however empirical validation, besides providing substantially qualitative indications. In order to enrich the knowledge about changes in customer preferences, the author performed a study of the results of customer surveys conducted in different years. In order to assess the role of time, the study intentionally neglected other factors potentially influencing the difference of customer preferences resulting from distinct surveys, e.g. demographical factors of respondents. More in detail, the study highlights the transformations that have taken place with respect to the perception of product requirements through the lenses of Kano´s theory. Thanks to dozens of literature sources, the study examined the alteration of 176 product requirements and service attributes. A statistical analysis of said changes allows to anticipate to which extent a product characteristic is expected to impact customer satisfaction after a given amount of years, by just knowing its present influence. Whereas the prediction of quality attributes introduces much uncertainty, the forecast of quantitative parameters connected with these factors displays greater statistical reliability. The results of the present research are supposed to represent a contribution: - for academicians, by laying bare pitfalls of the above mentioned evolutionary Kano models; - for New Product Development teams, by obtaining a more reliable picture of future customer preferences, allowing them to design products that ensure a larger amount of consumers´ satisfaction; - from an entrepreneurial and managerial point of view, by providing a greater understanding of the risks caused by delayed product launches.