Customer orientation in industrial service innovation: Deepening the understanding on customers, needs, involvement, and value: Dissertation

    Research output: ThesisDissertationCollection of Articles


    Customer orientation is a business approach that emphasizes customer value and satisfaction of customer needs. As a general approach it is widely seen as beneficial for business and innovation. Yet there is a need to better understand it in the context of industrial service innovation. This dissertation is aimed at filling that research gap. The traditional view of innovation in the industrial context has emphasized technology and physical goods. Recently manufacturers' focus has shifted from goods to services, product-service systems and customer solutions. Simultaneously the discussion on user driven and open innovation has questioned the role of technology. The importance of customer orientation for manufacturers has grown as they have turned to service providers and as open innovation has gained ground in industry. At the same time industry has had challenges in becoming customer oriented and in innovating industrial services. This article dissertation based on four published studies employs abductive case research strategy. The empirical data has been collected from 31 manufacturing and technology companies in the B2B context: 16 in the supplier role and 15 in the customer role. Two of the published studies are multiple case studies, one is a single case study, and one is a theoretical study. The theoretical contributions are a novel framework of customer needs in the B2B context, an illustration of different innovation types through a single conception of innovation, and novel perspectives on utilizing open and closed innovation. The four studies together deepen the understanding on nested customers, business customers' needs, customer involvement and customer value. The dissertation examines customer orientation as an evolving concept that can be applied in various ways in different contexts. The managerial implications highlight transformation of industry that has manifested itself as servitization and that is foreseen to accelerate in the near future. It is suggested that a wider view than the customer-supplier interaction should be taken and that industrial service innovation should be seen as nested systems change. Then innovation not only encompasses products and services but wider ecosystems where humans and the society are essential actors and beneficiaries. Customers and other stakeholders are inherently involved in innovation. The new approach on customer orientation requires a focus on value co-creation at multiple systems levels and in multiple directions. It also requires management of co-development utilizing both open and closed innovation, and creation of favorable dynamics for interactive learning.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor Degree
    Awarding Institution
    • Aalto University
    • Järvenpää, Eila, Supervisor, External person
    • Toivonen, Marja, Advisor, External person
    Award date2 Sept 2016
    Place of PublicationEspoo
    Print ISBNs978-952-60-6885-5, 978-951-38-8442-0
    Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-6886-2, 978-951-38-8441-3
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


    • customer orientation
    • industrial service business
    • service innovation
    • business customers' needs
    • customer involvement
    • value creation
    • open innovation
    • user driven innovation
    • system innovation
    • business ecosystem
    • abductive case research


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