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Customer Oriented Product Development? An exploratory study of four Swedish SME’s


  • Ekström, Karin M.

    () (Department of Business Administration, School of Economics and Commercial Law, Göteborg University)

  • Karlsson, MariAnne

    () (Chalmers tekniska högskola)


The purpose of this study was to investigate the degree of customer orientation in a small sample of Swedish SME's. In-depth interviews were carried out with product developers in four companies from three different product areas. The questions posed concerned the company's overall strategy, ways of managing the external dialogue (i.e. the dialogue between the company and the customer), and ways of managing the internal dialogue (i.e. the dialogue between the product development team members, and between the product development team and the company). The study indicates some ambiguities regarding key issues in customer orientation. All companies claimed to be customer-oriented, however, the meanings of the concept varied slightly – between ‘offering the customer what the customer wants’ to ‘understanding and solving customer problems’. The study also showed that the companies had difficulties defining their customer. While customer-orientation in general seems to imply a consumer-orientation, the customer can also be the middleman or the distributor. The latter was the case in three of the four companies and had clear implications on overall strategy. Also, the direct dialogue between the manufacturer and the end customers, i.e. consumers was rather limited, even though such a dialogue was considered and needed.

Suggested Citation

  • Ekström, Karin M. & Karlsson, MariAnne, 2001. "Customer Oriented Product Development? An exploratory study of four Swedish SME’s," FE rapport 2001-380, University of Gothenburg, Department of Business Administration.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhb:gunwba:2001_380

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gupta, Anil K. & Govindarajan, V., 1994. "Organizing for knowledge flows within MNCs," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 443-457, December.
    2. Hakanson, Lars & Nobel, Robert, 1993. "Foreign research and development in Swedish multinationals," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 22(5-6), pages 373-396, November.
    3. Jon I Martinez & J Carlos Jarillo, 1989. "The Evolution of Research on Coordination Mechanisms in Multinational Corporations," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 20(3), pages 489-514, September.
    4. Håkansson, Håkan & Snehota, Ivan, 1989. "No business is an island: The network concept of business strategy," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 187-200.
    5. Forsgren, Mats, 1990. "Managing the international multi-centre firm: Case studies from Sweden," European Management Journal, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 261-267, June.
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    More about this item


    customer orientation; product development;

    JEL classification:

    • L80 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - General
    • M31 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Marketing


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