Media - Sonova News Room

“We work closely together”

Sonova and the University of St Gallen, a leading global authority in market research, have enjoyed a successful working relationship since 2007. We interviewed the respective team leaders about the aims, methods and research findings arising from this fruitful cooperation. 

Many years of cooperation: a meeting at the University of St Gallen

Martin Riedi, Director Market Insight at Sonova (left), and Professor Dr Andreas Herrmann, Director of the Institute for Customer Insight at the University of St Gallen (right), enjoy a cooperation based on trust.

How has your cooperation progressed so far?

Professor Dr Andreas Herrmann: We work closely together – and have done from the very beginning. This kind of ongoing, close coordination has been extremely important as market research has changed considerably over the last few years; we have been able to apply increasingly efficient methods for our studies that now allow us to get an even more accurate picture of customers’ decision-making behaviour. Every step in this direction is a win for Sonova.

Martin Riedi: I found it fascinating to see how, time and time again, application of the correct methodology enabled us to make reliable predictions about developments in the market, and how marketing operations based on these proved to be successful. Working together allows us to monitor the methodological quality of our work on an ongoing basis – and from a neutral standpoint. Exchanging ideas with outside experts is important and often catalyses new ideas.

What added value do the research findings bring and what do you seek to achieve with them?

Professor Dr Andreas Herrmann: Our work aims to provide senior management with information about market conditions and customer behaviour so they can make efficient marketing decisions. Our research findings are intended to improve efficiency in decision-making processes and the act of deciding per se.

Martin Riedi: We support management in four key areas: the “Voice of Customer” study, for example, allows Sonova to target customer feedback and effect improvements in processes and products. The “Trends & Innovations” analysis permits us to identify relevant needs of end customers and hearing care professionals at an early stage and to assess the most promising potential solutions. Using “big data” approaches, we are already able to track the fitting and use of our hearing aids by several tens of thousands of end customers across multiple years. Lastly, constant monitoring of our competitors allows us to anticipate their product launches. These four areas are linked together at Sonova to guarantee joined-up consultation for brand, product and business model decisions.

What methodology are the studies based on?

Professor Dr Andreas Herrmann: The way market conditions are identified and the selection of methods and procedures are entirely dependent on what we wish to achieve; the starting point for all market research is thus the question or issue that has been raised by management. Appropriate data-gathering techniques are then chosen to address the question and the data capture is carried out. There’s no dogmatic approach in the sense of focusing on any particular methodological tradition. Our decision is contingent on the question.

Martin Riedi: For us, it’s a trade-off between the demands of time restrictions, resource management, methodological expertise and methodological acceptability. Resource allocation must also be proportionate to the significance of the business decision at hand. In order to make the most informed decision in each case, Sonova deploys a global network of specialists. Depending on the issue to be addressed, it can be important to have a partner on the ground. We use a wide range of methods, from traditional surveys and psychological interviews through big- data analyses to the evaluation of data on social media platforms. With all this diversity, it is important to have a skilled, neutral partner on board.

Professor Dr Andreas Herrmann: The methodology is a means to an end and is intended to help us arrive at findings about market conditions that are solid and accurate. The choice of method is important in this respect, but should always be viewed through the lens of the research question.

What new findings about customer satisfaction and brand positioning have you brought to light?

Martin Riedi: We’ve established that Sonova is capable of building and positioning brands in a highly targeted manner. Brand recognition is a prerequisite for creating brand value. The value of a brand is expressed in attitude-based purchase probability, or to put it in simple terms: a brand is not bought just because it is well-known – it has to be desired as well. Based on our long-term strategy, we have enjoyed success after success in building up this market desirability. The Canadian retail market is a striking example of our ability to grow a brand: we established our Connect Hearing brand there very successfully once we had defined the relevant positioning for our end customers.

Building brand awareness – the example of Connect Hearing

Sonova has been able to build brand awareness of Connect Hearing within a four year timeframe, particularly among the ‘Users 55+’ group:

400 users sampled per wave; Country: Canada; Brand: Connect Hearing
Groups: Others 15+: General population without hearing loss aged 15+; Non-users 55+: Non-Users impaired without a hearing aid aged 55+; Users 55+: Hearing aid owners aged 55+

Where will the greatest opportunities and challenges lie in the future?

Professor Dr Andreas Herrmann: One of the biggest challenges is to anticipate developments in the various markets. Real innovations are less likely to arise from client questionnaires, they have to be developed within the company itself instead. One option that our market research provides for Sonova involves testing the market compatibility of innovative new products so that their potential market success can be gauged more effectively.

Martin Riedi: It’s exactly these studies in the arena of innovation that can sometimes have unexpected results. In such cases, it’s important that the findings are broad-based and that we circulate them quickly within the company so they can be accepted and used as the foundation for further decision-making. We think linking big-data analyses, survey results and in-house data represents a significant opportunity – doing so will enable us to base our decisions on an even broader set of findings in future.

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