The success of a product (or the marketing process) largely depends on the ability of the producer or the marketer to meet the ultimate users/customers’ expectations concerning the product or service. To achieve this, it is important for the organization to embark on the determination of the customer’s needs and expectations as a precedent for the manufacturing and releasing of the product to the market. If such needs are not met by the product, the organization produces market products that fit the market needs, and the products are likely to produce autonomous demand for the products and which require very little effort to market per se.
This chapter, therefore, discusses the importance of and ways in which Sony group seeks to identify market needs as a focal point to producing top-class/quality products and meet its objective of offering the world’s highest level of customers satisfaction.
Determination of customers’ needs: a case of Sony group
Sony is a market leader in the electronics industry. It is a Japanese company that is known worldwide for its quality and reliable electronics products. This achievement has been greatly attributed to the company’s customer’s oriented production and product development strategy in which marketers, research and development team, and design team seeks to identify customers’ needs before proceeding to come up with not only top quality products but also which meet the pre-identified needs for optimal customers’ satisfaction [Sony Corporation, 2009].
The company has realized that to succeed in the competitive marketing environment like Sony Corporation is operating. It is of paramount importance for the organization and all its marketing organs to meet the customers’ expectations through a thorough determination of end users’ needs prior to products development.
According to Cagan & Vogel (2002), determining of customer’s needs is the leeway to effectively and efficiently meet the customer’s expectations, the latter of which is vital for business success. This is because if the product fails to meet the customer’s needs and expectations, it generates internal frustration on the part of the customer and a negative view of the customer towards the product. A frustrated customer is likely to express his negative feelings by negatively recommending the product to others which will adversely affect the sales of that product. In addition, negative feelings towards the product will mean there is no repeat purchase; hence the form is more likely to lose the customer to the competitor if the latter is able to meet such expectations in a better way (Cagan & Vogel, 2002). In Sony, the determination of customers’ needs is achieved through a number of ways which include relationship marketing and explicit market research.
Market research (customers’ survey)
Integrated market research aimed at determining customers’ needs involves three crucial steps. These include gathering and interpreting data and information from the customers of the end-users of Sony products, usually done via explicit interviews between the customers or end-users and the company’s representatives, focus groups in circumstances where there is a direct contact between the marketers, organization and the end-users, and through observing the customer using current Sony products or competitors product. In the survey (interview or focus groups), the company’s representatives are involved in explicitly asking the customers about their expectations of the product or the features they would like present in the final product or the production process.
While observing the customers use the Sony’s products or those of the competitors, for instance, the programming VCRs to record TV shows, the Sony’s design team has been able to obtain important information concerning the desired attributes that the customer expect or which are important to the customers irrespective of them not being too obvious for them to realize [Sony Corporation, 2009 www.sony.net]. Through such observation and obtaining of customers complaints while using the company’s product, the design team has obtained and responded efficiently to the company’s needs by making the usability of the product much simpler.
Relationship marketing, on the other hand, is a strategy in which the company establishes systems that establishes a close link between the organization and the customers in a way that creates two-way communication between the parties involved, customers feedback, opinions on potential products, and process, complaints and compliment concerning the existing products as well as the suggestion of the attributes they would like included in the products to suit their needs can be effectively obtained (Cagan & Vogel, 2002). Once the organization obtains and analyzes data concerning the customer’s needs, they categorize them in order to see what Sony’s capacity can and cannot meet with its current resources hence responds by the production of the “market fit,” i.e., Products that meet customers needs and expectation in the best way possible.
Disintermediation (direct marketing channels)
Sony has established direct marketing systems in which it produces and market electronics directly to the customers. Through this strategy, the company has established direct relationships/ contact with the customers making it very effective and efficient to obtain customers’ needs (Cagan & Vogel, 2002). In some cases, its customers, especially corporate customers, give order specifications to the company indicating the features they would like included in the products. The company then responds to the customer’s needs via the production of products that meets the exact specifications of the customer. This strategy has been very resourceful for Sony in its endeavor to produce goods that efficiently and effectively meet customers’ expectations and achieve electronics market leadership [Sony Corporation, 2009].
ISO-9000: 2000, the six stigma and customers specifications
Sony group does not only aim at continuously improving the quality of their products and services but has also put up effective measures at all levels of the organization’s operations whose aim is to realize the world’s top-quality management that offers the highest quality of customer satisfaction. The initial process of the achievement of this is to come up with effective tools and procedures for determining the market needs, which serves as Sony’s focal point in producing goods that meet customers’ expectations in the best way possible.
Sony’s systems, such as ISO 9000 series, which is a unique total quality management system that seeks to ensure that the company’s products meet customers’ expectations, largely rely on the customer’s specifications, the latter of which is incorporated in the system. As a result, gathering information concerning the customers’ needs which are encrypted in the specifications, is the key determinant of the effectiveness of the system and forms the initial step in products development [Sony’s quality and reliability handbook, 2000]
The Sony group has also established a system that is referred to as the six stigmas, which also aims at ensuring that the group’s products and services have the optimal quality to meet the customers’ expectations in the best way possible. To achieve this, the system uses the “Voice of the customer” as the fundamental step, which means that the success of the system is embedded in obtaining the needs of the customers first. The objective of the system is to enable the company continuously improve its products in order to provide top-level quality and solutions to its customers and the highest level of customer satisfaction in the world [Sony’s quality and reliability handbook, 2000]
. To achieve this, the company has established top-level relationship marketing via which post-sales product information and customers’ experiences with the products can be obtained, continuously carrying out customer surveys, market research through interviews focus groups, and direct observation of customers in the free use of Sony’s product to determine their needs as a far as the company’s products and services are concerned. In addition, the company has established an exceptional research and development team that seeks customers changing needs, performs market intelligence to identify competitors’ technological trends, leads in innovations and inventions in the company, and makes recommendations to the designing and manufacturing teams so as to produce products which fit the market; giving unmatched customers satisfaction [Sony Corporation, 2009].
Cogan and Vogel, Planning and Determination of Customers/ Client Need, Harvard Business School, 2002.
Sony Corporation. 2009. Web.
Sony Corporation, Steps to Quality Assurance Inc. Quality and Reliability Handbook, 2009 Chapter 1 Pg 7-30. Web.