New communication technologies and the increased flexibility have created multiple new options for both manufacturers and customers. Many companies have added toolkits to their websites to allow customers to design or adjust products to their preference. This enriching process is believed to add more value to the product and it increases the satisfaction of the customers.
Nikolaus Franke and Martin Schreier have researched the reasons for people to use these tools and more importantly the value of the process of self-designing products. They stress the relevance of this research while dissatisfaction of designing tools leads to failure and it has a negative impact on the company.
The authors found a two way interacting relation between a product fitting to the preferences and the enjoyment of self-designing process. If a final product meets the expectations of the customer he or she will attribute higher satisfaction and joy to the process itself. But the reverse reasoning holds as well. Customers enjoying the process are less concerned about the outcome which is important in case the product itself is not satisfying. If this is not the case, a positive outcome (preference fit) only amplifies the process enjoyment.
Influential and crucial for the process enjoyment is the effort needed from customers to customize their products. Here also is a two way interaction but here they are opposites. Positive outcomes lead to a feeling of accomplishment and worth the effort. The perceived value for the customers increases then. Dissatisfying outcomes create negative effect of effort. The perceived value will drop.
Both these findings are very interesting but they raise questions about the triangular interaction of preference fit, process enjoyment and process effort and their effect on the value perception. A specified relation between effort and enjoyment is missing which makes the value of the total concept fragile. This should be an interesting topic for further research. Noted that ever since this paper was published lots of research has been done on related topics.
What does this mean in practice?
First the importance of engaging customers in the production and designing processes has been proven to be crucial, especially in markets where customers would like to have customized products. Second companies should make sure to offer tools that customers will enjoy working with. This will increase the satisfaction even when the product does not fit the customers’ preferences. The effort needed from the customers should be minimized in order not to frustrate them. As stated the effect between these two was missing in the research. At least we know that both influence the perceived value in different ways. The goal always must be meeting the needs and preferences of customers while this leads to higher perceived value regardless the effort and it only increase the enjoyment.
Franke, N., & Schreier, M. (2010). Why Customers Value Self‐Designed Products: The Importance of Process Effort and Enjoyment*. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 27(7), 1020-1031.