The Customer Research Center (CRC) provides the foundation that enables Mercedes-Benz to turn automotive dreams into reality. The three focal points of the work done at the CRC are (1) systematic customer research designed to determine customer requirements, (2) the generation of ideas in the Innovation Workshop, and (3) the monitoring of product acceptance. This approach makes it possible to ensure that the wishes of the customer and innovative ideas are included in the development of new Mercedes-Benz automobiles in a targeted manner — right from the start.
Basically, it is all about asking the right questions and discussing possible answers with the customers in as detailed a manner as possible. Combined with market research findings and studies of trends and the overall environment, this results in a set of coordinates for interesting market segments. After that, the CRC experts generate and test the appropriate possibilities for products and solutions.
The Mercedes-Benz Customer Research Center is unique in the global automo-tive industry because it conducts psychology-focused customer research in a seamless manner and with a holistic approach. Mercedes-Benz thus has at its disposal a one-of-a-kind interconnected laboratory landscape, one that incorpo-rates all the aspects that people perceive and can form an opinion about. This laboratory network includes everything from a tactile lab to laboratories for acoustics, light, and long-distance driving trials. Given its complexity, this topic is viewed both holistically and from an intercultural perspective.
The intercultural approach ensures that regional customer requirements, which in some cases are very different, are taken into account. In the past, the focus was primarily on countries like Germany and the U.S. — our traditional core markets — as well as Russia and the UK. In the future, we will be looking just as closely at growth markets such as China, India, Brazil, and the Middle East.
In line with vehicle development cycles, the CRC employees look at customer requirements far in advance, taking into account the aspects that will be important in five, seven, or ten years. This process combines qualitative methods such as discussions and interviews with quantitative techniques that include in-depth real-life analysis. For these long-term tests, customers are given a vehicle to drive for up to one week. They can contact us at any time via a call center in order to report their real-life experiences with the car.
The Innovation Workshop is an “idea generator”
The Innovation Workshop is a separate unit within the CRC that is responsible for generating new ideas. Between 60 and 80 workshops attended by about 1,500 participants take place here every year, with the goal of finding new initial ideas and working on new products. The most important factor for assessing an idea is customer acceptance, which is therefore examined in great detail.
To this end, the unit has developed a four-stage model that simulates the process by which acceptance gradually begins to grow. Starting with the first stage of acceptance, which is based on hearsay, this process chain then extends to (2) “look-listen-and-feel” — in the showroom, for example. It then moves on to (3) “drive-and-feel” during a test drive and culminates in the most important stage — (4) acceptance over a long period of actual use. This process should end with the customers concluding that they have made the right decision and would make it again the next time around. This stage of acceptance is typical of Mercedes-Benz customers — and that can be empirically proved.
Source: Daimler AG