Under the microscope: perceived quality – “Perceived quality does not depend on the spirit of the age”
When do customers perceive a vehicle interior as high in quality? Fundamental questions like this are an area of activity covered by Dr. Götz Renner, 49, Head of the Customer Research Center (CRC) at Mercedes-Benz.
Dr. Renner, everybody talks about the perceived quality of a vehicle’s interior, but when exactly do customers consider an interior to be of high quality?
A combination of many attributes makes the difference. Deciding factors include the appearance of the materials and how they feel, intuitive understanding of control functions, a feeling of wellbeing, the precision of finish and the internal consistency of the design, the variety of features provided and the impression of solidity. Taken together, these factors create a rewarding feeling that customers have obtained good value for the purchase price, enabling them to experience lasting pleasure and satisfaction. All of this is naturally also influenced by fashion, but is nonetheless relatively independent of the spirit of the age.
You refer to a lasting feeling of pleasure, but is the first impression not just as important?
Both are important: just as when we meet other people, much is decided by the initial visual impression during the first few seconds. A high-quality interior therefore needs visual highlights that favourably influence the first impression. An unsuitable detail that can spoil the overall impression is correspondingly unfortunate. But in the long run all the human senses are involved in our feeling of wellbeing: your sense of smell determines whether you are attracted or repelled, the ears whether you are disturbed or feel welcome. And if your sense of touch tells you that you want to feel this surface again and again, we have won.
So how are these findings from behavioural psychology used in the development of a new automobile?
Mercedes-Benz design has reversed its approach in recent times. It is no longer a matter of subsequently upgrading and enhancing a functional interior. Instead the so-called “appreciation model” is at the start of the process. Here the designers first put their creative ideals into practice, then look for ways in which their ideas can be translated into series production. This produces a more harmonious and higher-quality result.