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A Study on Methodology to Collect Customer Requirements through the Internet
AbstractTimely and accurate access to customer requirements is one of the vital elements of the customer-centric business strategy of modern enterprises. After comparisons of different methods of product and market requirements surveying, we propose to use the Internet information through well-constructed websites to utilize the techniques and methods of collecting customer needs and combining with actual cases in order to provide the basis for new product development in enterprises.
KeywordsInternet, Customer, Requirements, Web
0 Introduction
    In modern society, more and more companies set up customer-centric business strategy and emphasize the customers’ expectations as a starting point. Through a variety of ways, they make their own products or services meeting and exceeding customer expectations, thereby acquire customers satisfaction [1]. For enterprises, meeting customer needs means to occupy the market. "Customer demands" contains the potential demands and external demands. It’s relatively easy to satisfy the external demands, but for potential demands, even customers sometimes can’t clearly state their demands, only when provide the corresponding products, customers may find that is what they want. Customer demands are obscure, dynamic and sometimes personal. How to obtain customer requirements accurately and effectively and make products according to demands of customers are important, and it provides sales basis and the main source for product development. This paper combines with the actual product development, gives Internet access to customer needs through the implementation of technologies and methods.
1 Market Survey Methodology of Access to Customer Needs
    Before product development, companies usually conduct a market survey. The content of market research is very extensive which is mainly market demand survey, including the capacity of market demand and the demand structure and life circle of products. There are also product market surveys, including political and legal environment, economic and technological environment and social and cultural environment. What’s more, surveys about their business competitor are also very important[2,3]. Customer demand for access to major in product market survey conducted, the survey methods used:
    (1) A questionnaire survey: the development team bases on the project, and designs a detailed questionnaire, by means of distributing information or letters to target customers, and statistics the data of customer answers, customer needs can be acquired by analyzing the data. The advantage is comprehensive and clear. The drawback is that customers are passive and do not have continuity; it is generally carried out at the start of the project. The extent of coverage and customer response is proportional with the input cost.
    (2) On-site observation: the R & D personnel observe the use of target products, living conditions, or by imaging records, and then observe and record to analyze customer needs. The advantage is that the customers understand the comprehensive, objective and detailed. Drawback is that customers are completely passive, lack of customer covering width and high input costs.
    (3) The meeting focus group discussion: the development team convened a number of client representatives to the meeting to discuss the form of representatives from the developers and customers to communicate on product development projects and discussion, in order to gain customers. The advantage is that pro-active, and has consistency; you can run through the product development process every link. Drawback is the limited number of customer’s opinions and suggestions of representative, and customer breadth of coverage is not enough.
    (4) Internet survey: the R & D personnel by Internet, using Web technology and services to obtain information of customer needs. The advantage is that customer’s extensive coverage, initiative, with consistency and so on. Drawback is the need of professional technology and equipment.
    Four commonly used market research methods have advantages and disadvantages, among them the characteristics shown in Table 1. As can be seen, "the network investigation" has a clear advantage. As the Internet become increasingly popular and mature today, the use of Internet access to customer demand will be a major enterprise product development method.
2 Through Techniques and Methods on Internet Access to Acquire Customer Needs
2.1 Mining Web Site Data for Customer Needs.
    Internet has vast amounts of data on the information available, through the Web site of data mining a large number of effective customer demand information. Web site customer demand information generally can be divided into two kinds of distributed and centralized. Distributed information store not only scattered information sources and content also has a large divergence of the market or customer needs are difficult to analyze in depth; a centralized source of information to organize around customers and markets, and expand, with the large amount of information involved wide and many other advantages, for the systematic analysis of user needs for possible [4].
    In a centralized source of information Web site, the products forum (BBS) is the most typical way that many commercial Web sites to provide this service, every Forum has a theme for a particular product or service, constitutes large amounts of information of the topic. Customers register on the site and posts, forming rich user information. Through the Forum, we can get information in three areas: (1) basic information, such as customers’ gender, age, occupation, economic status and education level; (2) evaluation of information, such as customer product opinions, advice, user comments, etc.; (3) market statistics information, that is, the synchronous performance of products in the market, the attention status in the whole market.
2.2 The Establishment of Web Sites for Customer Needs.
    By mining the data in web site, we can get a lot of customer demand information, but the client is passive, one-way, is the product R & D personnel by visiting a large number of related sites, analysis of research data to obtain information. Through the establishment of web site to acquire customers’ demand, the customer is active, customer and research and development team can interact and have continuity.
    In this paper, with the instance of domestic soymilk appliance development, using Dream weaver web authoring software and ASP.NET (Active Server Pages) network technology to SQL Sever as database support, to build Web sites. System uses the C / S (Client / Server) and B / S (Brower / Server) hybrid network architecture, which uses in-house R & D C / S structure, client remote data access and management by B / S structure. In this way, the development team has its own local area network servers and storage to support development of internal data; customer exchanged information is stored in another data server for remote access clients. Web site for customer business processes and computer technique for mapping model shown in Figure 1.
    Web site set up for customer demand information, interactive technology and tools are: (1) e-mail, transmit historical information for the survey results and other information that does not require real-time interaction. (2) Shared whiteboard, a direct and efficient means of information exchange to obtain the customer needs between developer and customer on-line discussions, and provide graphical interactivity. (3) Synchronized browsing, development teams can post project progress and information on the Web site, customers can receive timely feedback. (4) video conferencing, provides more vivid audio-visual interaction than the shared whiteboard. (5) Remote control, R & D personnel provides a convenient means to customers to guide and manage the operation [5].
    According to the need in the Web site five processes and plates are set up.
    (1) Login / register. Access to basic customer information, customer data management segment, different types of customers to set different permissions to protect corporate trade secrets.
    (2) Evaluation of the original product. Soymilk appliances show the working principle, functional structure, dimensions, manufacturing and use and so on. Collecting our Soymilk appliance and other brands of soybean milk appliances in order to arrange illustrated in the form about different categories on the page, ask Customers for evaluation. Evaluation can be "shared whiteboard," and the R & D real-time online discussion, you can also "forum" a message or send "email."
    (3) Product description. Asking customers to make soymilk at home , drink soy milk as a thing and an act, described in text language or pictures, describing your ideal way and product to make soy milk and drink soy milk at home, description is stored as "Message Forum" or "email" in the database server.
    (4) New program evaluation. R & D team analyzes the data of the customer evaluation and description, refined into a product target indicators, merger the repetition, remove the excess, and grade according to importance. According to objective indicators of products, using computer 3D software (Pro / E) to design parameters of different styles of the household soybean milk appliance, use "sync browse" products issued dynamic program, ask the customer to rate.
    (5) Customer co-design. New program for products, customers can design, through the "picture" in the six views of products to alter, by changing the three-dimensional model parameters. Changes can through "shared whiteboard" and the R & D real-time online discussion, you can also leave a message in the "forum" or send "email."
    In the soybean milk appliance development process, establish Web sites through the Internet to obtain customers’ information of five blocks is not a linear one-way, but the circular flow, R & D team and customers to go through repeated iterations, the use of interactive computer technology tools and the relationship between the five sections shown in Figure 2.
2.3 Effective Customer Choice and Encourage.
    It is very important in the customers’ choice and incentive to establish Web site and acquire customers’ needs. Any of individuals or organizations may accept companies’ products and services are business customers, which are divided into internal and external customers for enterprises. External customers are the direct consumption of products and services businesses, its demand for the products generally map the functional requirements, that is, when customers buy products or services in decision-making on the functionality, performance, appearance and operation requirements or potential requirements; internal customers for product design, manufacturing and management personnel, as well as parts suppliers and product buyers, with its demand for the products, the general mapping technology, structure and design cycles, etc. [6,7].
    Product development process in the soybean milk appliance, for internal customers we choose the product dealers, sales and maintenance staff. Dealer profits by selling products are highly sensitive to the quality of the product; salespeople know a lot of customers’ evaluation information; maintenance staffs hold a large number of customer complaints comments on the product. They provide high quality customer demand information is an effective source. For external clients we choose customers who prepare to purchase products,who have been using the product at home, who interested in product development. Their participation effectively extends the breadth of coverage of customers. Taken a "reward points" incentives, according to the information needs of customers all index redeem accumulated reward. We choose and encourage customers to obtain high-quality customer demand information to provide effective protection.
3 Conclusions
    In the Internet, Web-vector mass of information, as well as its remote control, real-time interactive, real-time dynamic characteristics, provide important resources and tools for enterprise to acquire the information of customer needs. Through the basis analysis of  the customer needs in-depth, this paper proposes methods of mining Web site data and the technology and methods of establishing Web site to obtain customer demand and product development.  These methods and tools are tested with examples of product development as actual applications with good results in the soymilk appliance design and improvement shown in Figure 3.
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Shengli Liu, Fa Shen
Department of Industrial Design, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics,
Ningbo University, Ningbo, Zhejiang Province 315211, P.R. China