Managing Customer Knowledge. Towards Market Orientation and Innovation in an Automotive Organisation
There is a business potential in creating and delivering unique customer value, and for that reason organisations put significant resources in their search for customer knowledge. The need for deepened customer knowledge is emphasised by market uncertainty, development of business models based upon relationships, and continuous striving for differentiation and innovation. Developing customer orientation, which is the overall theme of this thesis, constitutes an organising framework for information gathering, knowledge, and value creation around the customer.
Based upon a collaborative research approach, this thesis aims at providing an actionable model for management of customer knowledge and development of customer orientation. The model is based upon different cases of customer knowledge development at Volvo Cars, as well as multiple theoretical perspectives on market orientation. In the model, critical distinctions are made for each step of the customer orientation development process. Alternative approaches, or even an alternative logic to customer information acquisition, are emphasised. In-depth learning from and about customers, but also the willingness to utilise that knowledge for innovation and market driving, are essential to customer orientation development. The development of intra and inter-relations, attention to change management issues, and recognising the indirect benefits of customer orientation, are other important aspects of developing customer orientation.
Development of customer orientation can be managed in an organisation, leading to the development of a distinctive competence in relation to the customers and the business environment. The boundaries of customer orientation can be spanned further in an actionable way, increasing both practical and academic relevance of the construct.