Based on the multi-attribute utility theory (MAUT), we present a survey method to measure consumer preferences. The multi-attribute utility theory has been used to make decisions in OR/MS field; however, we show that the method can be effectively used to estimate the demand for new services by measuring individual level utility function.
Because conjoint method has been widely used to measure consumer preferences for new products and services, we compare the pros and cons of two consumer preference survey methods. Further, we illustrate how swing weighing method can be effectively used to elicit customer preferences especially for new telecommunications services.
Multi-attribute utility theory is a compositional approach for modeling customer preference, in which researchers calculate overall service utility by summing up the evaluation results for each attribute. On the contrary, conjoint method is a decompositional approach, which requires holistic evaluations for profiles. Partworth for each attribute is derived or estimated based on the evaluation, and finally consumer preferences for each profile are calculated. However, if the profiles are quite new and unfamiliar to the survey respondents, they will find it very difficult to accurately evaluate the profiles. We believe that the multi-attribute utility theory-based survey method is more appropriate than the conjoint method, because respondents only need to assess attribute level preferences and not holistic assessment.
We chose swing weighting method among many weight assessment methods in multi-attribute utility theory because it is designed to perform in a simple and fast manner. As illustrated in Clemen and Reilly (2001), to assess swing weights, the first step is to create the worst possible outcome as a benchmark by setting the worst level on each of the attributes. Then, each of the succeeding rows “swings” one of the attributes from worst to best. Upon constructing the swing table, respondents rank order the outcomes (rows). The next step is to rate the outcomes in which the rating for the benchmark is set to be 0 and the rating for the best outcome to be 100, and the ratings for other outcomes are determined in the ranges between 0 and 100. In calculating weight for each attribute, ratings are normalized by the total sum of all ratings.
To demonstrate the applicability of the approach, we elicited and analyzed individual-level customer preference for new telecommunication services-WiBro and HSDPA. We began with a randomly selected 800 interviewees, and reduced them to 432 because other remaining ones were related to the people who did not show strong intention for subscription to new telecommunications services. For each combination of content and handset, number of responses which favored WiBro and HSDPA were counted, respectively. It was assumed that interviewee favors a specific service when expected utility is greater than that of competing service(s). Then, the market share of each service was calculated by normalizing the total number of responses which preferred each service.
Holistic evaluation of new and unfamiliar service is a tough challenge for survey respondents. We have developed a simple and easy method to assess individual level preference by estimating weight of each attribute. Swing method was applied for this purpose. We believe that estimating individual level preference will be quite flexibly used to predict market performance of new services in many different business environments.