The evolving role of customer focus in quality management: Using customer feedback to mobilize quality improvements in the age of digitalization and increased service delivery
Doktorsavhandling, 2020

Understanding customer needs is fundamental for being able to deliver high quality products and services, and, as a result, maintain and improve customer satisfaction. Achieving this has become a challenge, as rapid technological developments, market saturation, and increasingly skilled competition from low-cost economies have led to progressively more complex customer needs. In addition, more manufacturing firms are offering services, thus shifting the focus from merely providing a physical product to also providing services. These changes result in an array of challenges for quality management regarding how to manage the integrated duality of product and service quality. Consequently, the need for quality management to understand how customers perceive the quality of the firm’s offering is becoming increasinglyimportant, as merely focusing on technical product quality improvements is insufficient. Compiling five papers, based on four studies across both manufacturing and service industries, this thesis outlines the evolving role of quality management in the age of digitalization and increased service delivery, by exploring the use of customer feedback for quality improvements in both products and services.

First, the thesis identifies the prerequisites needed to use customer feedback for quality improvements, identifying the importance of access to the different interfaces through which customer feedback emerges. These interfaces are growing in number and complexity as digitalization and increased service delivery reshape how firms and customers interact and how offerings are delivered. Second, the capacities needed to mobilize customer feedback for quality improvements are explored using the concept of absorptive capacity, which describes the capacity to acquire and use external information. The studied firms are found to have underdeveloped absorptive capacity in terms of mobilizing customer feedback regarding service quality compared to mobilizing customer feedback on product quality. Third, the evolving boundaries and scope of quality management, driven by digitalization and increased service delivery, require quality management to go from reactive and inward-focused to embracing a proactive, continuous, and customer-focused way of working. Furthermore, the abundance of codified customer feedback in the form of big data readily available for firms today, leads to the risk of predominantly focusing on technical quality aspects while neglecting more intangible quality elements. The importance of integrating small data into firm efforts to manage quality is therefore key to ensuring quality improvements encompass the entire customer experience. Conclusively, the evolving role of customer focus in quality management requires the reconceptualization of quality to quality-in-use, and the development of both the capturing and the converting roles of quality management in terms of mobilizing customer feedback for both quality improvements and increased customer knowledge.

small data

quality improvements

service improvements

customer feedback

digitalization

manufacturing

customer focus

quality management

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Opponent: Prof. Pauline Found, University of Buckingham, UK

Författare

Andrea Birch-Jensen

Chalmers, Teknikens ekonomi och organisation, Service Management and Logistics

Digitally connected services: Improvements through customer-initiated feedback

European Management Journal,; Vol. 38(2020)p. 814-825

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift

Use of customer satisfaction measurements to drive improvements

Total Quality Management and Business Excellence,; (2018)

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift

Absorptive capacity as enabler for service improvements − the role of customer satisfaction information usage

Total Quality Management and Business Excellence,; Vol. In Press(2020)

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift

Birch-Jensen, A., Gremyr, I., Kumar, M., Löfberg, N. Absorbing customer feedback for quality improvements of products and services.

Digitalisation and quality management: problems and prospects

Production Planning and Control,; Vol. In Press(2020)

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift

With digitalization and increased service delivery, customer needs are growing increasingly complex. Furthermore, with an increasing number of firms offering services—digital or analog—quality as a concept moves from being decided and assessed by the provider firm to being perceived by the customer. As a result, the ability to understand how customers perceive quality is becoming even more important for firms in order to be customer focused, manage customer satisfaction, and remain competitive. Building on five appended papers, this thesis identifies the structural prerequisites and organizational muscles needed to capture and make use of different types of customer feedback for quality improvements. Moreover, for quality management to be able to respond to the challenges of increased subjectivity in customers’ assessments of quality, this thesis explores and outlines the evolving role of quality management in the age of digitalization and increased service delivery.

Styrkeområden

Produktion

Ämneskategorier

Tvärvetenskapliga studier

Ekonomi och näringsliv

ISBN

978-91-7905-402-1

Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 4869

Utgivare

Chalmers tekniska högskola

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Online

Opponent: Prof. Pauline Found, University of Buckingham, UK

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Senast uppdaterat

2020-11-13