Have you ever heard of a
product clinic? Product clinics are popular among vehicle manufacturers.
Usually the entire clinic is conducted in secrecy and each of the participants
is made to sign a document not to disclose the clinic details to anyone outside.
Potential customers and a couple of industry experts are chosen to be part of a
clinic which essentially involves seeking views on a vehicle that is likely to
be introduced in the not too distant future.
Motown India senior
journalists have been part of product clinics as “experts” for quite some time.
The role of experts is entirely different from that of consumers in a Product
clinic. Let’s explain what a customer is made to do by giving an example. A man opens a rear passenger door of a car.
Then he closes it. He listens to the sound it makes. He opens and closes it
again, and repeats the operation two more times. When he’s satisfied, he makes
a note in his digital tablet. In the meantime, there’s a woman sitting in the
driver seat. She switches on the dipped beams and gets out of the car. She
walks to the front and inspects the headlight. She too makes a note in her
tablet. Then she gets back in the car and turns on the high beams. She gets out
again and reinspects the light before making some more notes.
These are just a few of the
actions carried out by the participants in a Product Clinic, who are potential
customers that make an assessment of the interior and exterior of a model that
is in its development phase two years prior to its launch. The purpose of the
Clinic is to “identify the aspects that can be improved at a stage when we
still have time to introduce some modifications”, explains Enrique Pastor, who
is responsible for Product Strategy and market Research at Seat car company.
According to a Seat press
note, between 300 and 500 people participate in the Clinics, who are divided
into small groups. Some of them pay special attention to textures: “it feels
soft”, says a woman who is running her hands over the steering wheel. Sitting
beside her is a man who is sniffing the leather upholstery to rate how it
smells. Another participant is in the back seat to assess how much legroom
there is while a fourth is feeling the consistency of the seat cushions. Yet a
fifth is at the rear of the car to check out the boot capacity: “it’s
spacious”, he murmurs to himself. All the participants walk around and
continuously check off parts of the survey on their tablet, scrutinising the
car like experts.
According to the Seat note, three
Clinics are performed during the three years prior to a new model launch. The
first tests the viability of the concept; the second focuses on the product and
the final one deals basically with its commercial positioning. Every clinic is
enormously beneficial, as in several cases modification were made on a model as
a result of the observations made by potential customers. For example, Pastor
explains that: “On one model that we’re going to launch soon it was discovered
that the driving position was too low and the necessary measures were taken to
raise it”. He went on to say that “if the final results were extremely poor, a
model launch could get shelved”. However, he is quick to point out “that has
never happened” at Seat.
Source: Motown India / Seat
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