Article Dr. Peter Schnaebele What users want Merely satisfying our customers
is no longer enough.
We have to spark their enthusiasm.

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  • July 19, 2013
  • Business/economy
  • Basic text

press release

July 19, 2013
We are used to convincing our customers with technological arguments. Our company has a long-standing reputation for producing quality products that have been designed and developed by engineers. Bosch regularly receives top results in customer satisfaction surveys. We know that this focus on technology is important, and that our lasting promise of quality and reliability is absolutely essential. But we also know that this alone will not be enough to secure our market position in the future, when we will be up against old and new competitors offering products that are essentially similar.

If nothing else, the success of Apple has prompted a rethink. It is important to find out what customers really want – and not just by conducting more market surveys, studies, and polls. We have to find out what the needs and desires of our customers really are, and strive to reach them on an emotive level. This is the only way we will be able to convince them of the exciting possibilities offered by our solutions and innovative approaches. A crucial factor in this respect is focusing on our customers’ user experience, and this has led Bosch to establish its own dedicated user experience team. Working as a service provider for all divisions, this team places the user at the center of its deliberations. ‘User’ refers to the person using a product or service on a daily basis, and can include everyone from car drivers to the associate operating a packaging machine.

User comfort in electric vehicles
On the basis of this approach, Bosch has designed a cockpit for an electric vehicle. Over the course of six months, the user experience team spoke to potential users, accompanied them on their way home, and observed them during test drives. The art lies in finding the right users for studies of this kind, and being able to interpret their needs. The 20 test subjects included techies, computer gamers, and people who don’t drive. The information collected from this mixed bunch was correspondingly diverse, and sometimes produced surprising results. For example, we had integrated an information screen into the cockpit that displayed the charge still left in the battery as a percentage figure. At one point, one of the test drivers in the simulator said: “I’m not interested in knowing how much power I’ve got left, I want to know how much further I can go.”

The user experience team is not just made up of engineers and computer scientists. Psychologists, prototype specialists, user-interface and industrial designers, and marketing experts also contribute their knowledge and points of view to help answer important questions such as: Does the user think the product is practical? Esthetically appealing? Easy to use? Is the product fun to work with? Does the user feel that the product suits them? Getting a product or service to the stage where it meets all these requirements usually involves a large number of steps. The aim is to meet the hidden needs and desires of customers. We want to fascinate our customers by recognizing and addressing those requirements that go beyond a particular product’s pure functions or obvious benefits.

Another example of a discovery made by our user experience experts is that starting the engine is a key moment in the driving experience. Electric motors don’t make any sound when they are started, leaving drivers unsure whether the engine is in fact running. Our designers have created a starting system that gives drivers exactly this ‘start-up’ experience when they turn the key in the ignition. The control unit looks like a high-end hi-fi system, and uses lighting and sound effects to let drivers know that the motor is on and running.

Cardboard prototype
Whenever a problem comes to light, the specialists are quick to put their heads together to try and solve it. They use simple media to quickly construct new prototypes during the early stages of the development process. On some occasions, successive models made of foam, paper, or cardboard are presented straight back to potential users to find out what they think of the improvements. Simply offering an explanation of what the new design will look like is not enough. We have found that giving people the chance to visualize the product makes all the difference.

Approaching things with the user’s experience in mind is not only effective for designing products and software, but also entire systems and user environments. Users must not get the feeling that such systems are complex. Take electromobility. From the user’s point of view, this involves much more than just the vehicles themselves. In order to offer an integrated solution, Bosch has developed an emobility infrastructure system in collaboration with the city state of Singapore. The system directs drivers of electric vehicles to the next charge spot as required, and takes care of billing the utility company. Rental car companies or parking space operators also have the opportunity to supplement this open system with additional services. We have tailored the total package to suit the needs of the user, and implemented it in an intuitively understandable way.

Faster, more innovative, and more cost-effective
Regardless of the type of product or where it is to be used, we believe that approaching things with the user’s experience in mind offers decisive advantages compared to developing and designing products strictly on the basis of technology and market requirements. Firstly, it makes companies more innovative. The user experience approach means that experts from diverse disciplines study a broad range of users. Accordingly, it takes account of the widest possible range of experience and viewpoints. We are all well aware that diversity is a key driver of innovation. Secondly, it makes companies quicker off the mark. Collecting user experience and improving products in an ongoing and rapid system of feedback and redesign shortens development cycles. And thirdly, it saves costs. Anyone who makes their mistakes in the early phases, prior to investing too much time and money, and who keeps a close ear to their customers, is unlikely to be confronted with the labor- and cost-intensive need to rework and optimize things at a later stage of development work.

Our strategic imperative is “Invented for life.“ For Bosch, this not only means being expert in the technology we offer, but also ensuring without fail that it suits the needs of our customers. Systematically applying the user experience approach is of central importance to achieving this objective.

Dr. Peter Schnaebele, Head of User Experience, Robert Bosch GmbH

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 375,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2015). The company generated sales of 70.6 billion euros in 2015. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiaries and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing and sales network covers some 150 countries. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. Bosch employs 55,800 associates in research and development at 118 locations across the globe. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.”

The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861-1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.” The special ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant up-front investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-two percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The majority of voting rights are held by Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, an industrial trust. The entrepreneurial ownership functions are carried out by the trust. The remaining shares are held by the Bosch family and by Robert Bosch GmbH.

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Schnaebele - July 19, 2013

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