Maximum difference scaling

Roberto Furlan and Graham Turner

Kantar Health


Companies constantly seek to enhance customer satisfaction and retention by improving the overall quality of a product or service. To do so, managers must focus on enhancing particular attributes of the product or service, those with the potentially greatest impact on customer satisfaction. However, identifying such key characteristics can be challenging and a key step is determining the value customers attach to the different features. The market researcher has several tools in their arsenal to assess such value. Among these, the most popular metrics are traditional approaches such as ratings, rankings and constant sum. However, in the last decade trade-off approaches such as maximum difference scaling (MDS) and paired comparisons of statements (PCS) have become rather popular among market researchers due to their advantages over the more traditional techniques. In the literature, one can find plenty of theoretical and empirical studies dedicated to these individual approaches and also some works involving a comparison of different methodologies. For instance, Chrzan and Golovashkina (2006) conducted a study to test six different types of importance metrics including traditional approaches (i.e. ratings and constant sum), MDS, and three other less popular methodologies, while Jaeger et al. (2008) compared MDS to preference ratings; both of these studies were based on empirical results.