Recognizing the opportunities for new service-enhanced products
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In a modern, globally competitive business environment, it is no longer enough to make quality products or even satisfy the stated needs of the customer. To create competitive advantage, a company has to discover latent needs of the customers and provide solutions to their problems – even the ones that the customers were not aware of. Both the suppliers and the customers in metal industry have stated their interest in shifting towards a more service-oriented approach. The task of this study was to find out how an industrial, product-oriented company can recognize and utilize opportunities for developing services that create value to their customers. The goal was to identify the components of customer value, find out ways to discover value creation opportunities in the metal industry, and to create a framework that the case company could use to get information from customers and recognize opportunities for new service business. Majority of existing service research focuses on after-sales services on the installed base, and cannot be applied as such in metal industry. This work focused on discovering latent customer needs and identifying and creating customer value. Various concepts of customer value, along with processes of developing customer understanding, are discussed. Theme interviews were conducted with the case company and two of its customers with a goal of gaining insight into the customers’ and their respective customers’ operations. Data from customer interviews was mirrored against data from the case company interviews. Workshops with the case company were used to verify and validate the data. The most important components of customer value were seen to be delivery time and appropriate pricing. Another theme that arose from the research was the opportunity to influence other parts of the supply chain. Third parties, such as end product designers can play a major role in deciding which materials to use. By influencing them, it is possible to affect the demand of products throughout the supply chain.