The Customer Research Center (CRC): Breeding ground of ideas for the cars of the future

Jul 29, 2011
  • Identifying areas of potential for innovation
  • Taking an intercultural approach with an eye on growth markets
  • Anticipating customer requirements in ten years
"Customer-centred innovations" is the key issue at the Customer Research Center (CRC) at Mercedes-Benz. Systematic customer analyses, idea engineering and checking how ideas have been accepted – these are the three working focuses of the Customer Research Center (CRC) at Mercedes-Benz. The staff of around 20 employees at the CRC head office in Böblingen work to ensure that customers’ wishes and innovative ideas are integrated in a targeted manner from the very start in the development of new Mercedes-Benz cars.
At the core their task is asking the right questions and, together with customers, detailing the answers as exhaustively as possible. When combined with findings from market, field and trend research, the parameters for potential innovations begin to emerge. The CRC experts then provide their input on suitable ideas for products and solutions and test them out with customers.
The Customer Research Center at Mercedes-Benz is unique worldwide in the automotive industry as its psychological customer research is conducted seamlessly. As a result Mercedes-Benz has a unique, cohesive laboratory landscape that includes everything that a person can perceive and provide a judgment on. This ranges from the haptic laboratory and the acoustics and light laboratory all the way to the laboratory for long-distance test drives. Due to its complexity, customer research is viewed comprehensively and interculturally.
The intercultural approach guarantees that regional customer requirements, which at times may vary substantially, are taken into account. Previously the focus was directed towards countries like Germany and the US – the traditional core markets – and the UK. Now it has gradually shifted to include growth markets like China which are being observed just as intensely.
Adjusting for the development cycles of vehicles, CRC staff research customer requirements far in advance – with an outlook towards what will be interesting in five, seven or ten years. They combine qualitative methods such as observations and interviews with new qualitative-quantitative methods such as intensive real-life analysis. In these long-term tests, customers drive a vehicle for up to a week and can make direct contact with the CRC at any time via a call centre to make real-time reports about their experiences.