The first impression that I got after learning about perceptual mapping is that it is exclusively a marketing tool and that it would have meagre implications in the field of operations. And I am sure many people from the operations clan might have felt the same way. But, first impression is not always the correct impression.
On researching about permaps, I couldn’t help notice a stark similarity between permaps and another tool that we used in total quality management- ‘The Kano Model’.
Now, for the un-initiated, Kano Model is used in total quality management wherein we tend to define whether our product attributes are in alignment with the customer requirements. The Kano model defines customer needs into three parts:
1)The bottom curve, labelled basic needs, represents needs that are taken for granted and typically assumed by the customer to be met (i.e., these are needs that “must be” satisfied). “The camera works out of the box, the camera is safe, the battery can be recharged by plugging into any outlet” are examples of basic needs for a digital camera. These needs are the “order qualifiers”. Completely meeting basic needs cannot greatly increase customer satisfaction, but if they are absent or below par customers will not react favourably.
2)The middle curve, labelled performance needs, represent needs for which customer satisfaction is roughly proportional to the performance exhibited by the product or service (i.e., these needs are “linear” in that “more is better’). For example, longer battery life in a digital camera and more internal memory for image storage are preferred
3) The upper curve, labelled exciting needs, represent needs that the customer does not expect to be satisfied. Thus, if this need is completely addressed the customer is delighted but if not, the customer does not really care. These needs are the “order winners” for customers. For example, side airbags, global positioning systems, air-less tires that never get flat for automobiles might be exciting needs today.
Now the idea of linking perceptual mapping may seem a little far-fetched, but in practice the underlying concept remains similar. Permaps could be used to understand which consumer needs are perceived as basic, performance or exciting by the consumer himself. One of the major functions of a permap is to uncover facts hidden in a complex data set. If a customer survey is done to enlist different consumer needs and then grading is done according to the intensity of needs, one could classify the needs in the above mentioned three categories. Again, one may study which needs are closer to each other and hence may be inserted into one category. So just like different products are perceived vis-à-vis product attributes, different needs may also be perceived differently.
Information obtained from such a permap may help in designing a product with suitable attributes taking into account ‘order qualifiers’ and ‘order winners’.
Posted by: Anish Diwadhkar
Operations _ Group 2