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Telephone interviews

Twelve companies and other stakeholders such as consumer groups were selected for semi-structured interviews. The companies manufactured outdoor products, domestic appliances, air conditioning and heating systems, electric showers and audio-visual equipment. The written questionnaire replies of the selected companies are summarized below (click on image for larger version):

A graph showing the percentage of manufacturers that gave each of the reply options when asked if loudness or sound quality was important to customer satisfaction

Fig 1. Summary of written questionnaire results for companies selected for telephone interviews

All except one of these companies considered that their products are important in terms of loudness and sound quality. Answers to the written questionnaire were used to generate subjects to be explored in the semi-structured interviews. Topics covered during each interview included:

  • Background questions on work role of interviewee, the size of the company and the products manufactured in the UK.
  • A definition of sound quality and how this relates to products manufactured by the company.
  • Methods of sound quality testing used and how this is related to the design and manufacturing process.
  • What is the target sound? How is this decided?
  • Customer feedback, including consideration of aging population and people with disabilities, standards and labelling.
  • The future of sound quality testing in the domestic appliance market, and any other considerations highlighted by the interviewee.

In summary, small and large companies rely on a good work relationship between their marketing and consumers departments as the sound quality of their products is becoming increasingly important to their customers. Sound quality is mainly viewed in terms of noise level and annoyance. Perceptual testing is not usually rigorous instead it is carried out using informal listening by designers, or jury tests using staff and sound quality indices are not usually considered. The industry appears to welcome an approved standard method for sound quality testing. Consumers associations, consider criteria relevant to consumers which relate to the product as a whole; the ease of use, some key features and convenience, for example. Sound quality is mainly only considered for sound reproduction products.