The research: Hauser heads an innovation called the Virtual Customer Initiative, a multidisciplinary research project that develops and tests new methods to improve the speed, accuracy, and usability of customer input to the product development process. In conjunction with the VCI, Hauser and his researchers are creating Web-based tools that give consumers the opportunity to provide rapid, accurate, and vital information to product developers.
One such innovation developed by Glen Urban and Hauser is “Listening In.” It takes advantage of the fact that consumers use cyber-advisors to help them research products. Such virtual interactions serve the customer, but they also provide a fertile source of ideas for new products. “Listening In” taps that source with cyber-advisors that learn as much from each interaction as the customer does.