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Understanding proactive customer orientation : construct development and managerial implications

2011 , Herhausen, Dennis

This work is devoted to the question of how managers can successfully probe latent needs and uncover future needs of customers, labeled as proactive customer orientation. To answer this question, three stages of research are deployed: (1) An exploratory study investigating two different dimensions of proactive customer orientation, (2) a quantitative study investigating consequences, antecedents, and factors that moderate the effects of proactive customer orientation, and (3) a qualitative study investigating situation-specific recommendations on how to increase proactive customer orientation. First, based on an observation of specialized proactive customer-oriented departments, expert interviews, workshops with managers, and a meta-analysis of existing research, two dimensions of proactive customer orientation are defined, proactive customer-oriented climate and proactive customer-oriented processes. New scales are developed for the two constructs, and the reliability, validity, and generalizability of the second-order measurement models are supported by an empirical study of 218 business-to-business firms and 202 business-to-consumers firms. Second, detailed research hypotheses are developed and tested with a cross-industry sample of 420 key informants, 82 additional informants, and 51 customers. Using structural equation modeling and hierarchical regression, the empirical results support that proactive customer-oriented climate and proactive customer-oriented processes are positively related with exploratory innovation and exploitative innovation, customer value, and superior business performance. Furthermore, four organizational values are identified as antecedents of proactive customer orientation, and several organizational characteristics moderate the relative importance of climate and processes for innovation, customer value, and performance. Third, a systematic change process is developed to guide managers that aim to increase their company's proactive customer orientation. More specifically, a four-step process is recommended to successfully probe latent needs and uncover future needs of customers and introduce market-based innovations. However, a cluster analysis revealed different market-based innovation strategies. Typical firms for each strategy are described and situation-specific recommendations regarding resource allocation are given.