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Exclusive Chicago Auto Show Interview: Consumer-Driven Innovations

The Chicago Auto Show, now in its 107th year(!), is a showcase of what’s new and what’s next in auto design and development.

This means more than just amazing new vehicles, this means learning about how storied industries like this one continue to use the voice of the customer in their product development.

Customers have a new voice in innovation.

I had an opportunity to interview James Bell, Head of Consumer Affairs for General Motors, about how they gather feedback and use it to create new innovations.

When asked about how GM incorporated the voice of the customer into their designs, he mentioned inviting in groups of customers to show them new ideas, listening to customers on social media, and inviting in those customers who already love a product to help them with how to make it even better.

The new Chevrolet Volt, for example, incorporates feedback from current Volt owners who love their cars. They use that feedback to design other models, too.

But James was quick to point out that there are times when the auto industry has made mistakes by listening too much to customers and not anticipating the next trends in technology or elsewhere.

To that end, all GM cars will have in-car wifi by the end of 2016. It’s their belief customers will see this as an advantage for road trips, commuting and feeling more at home in their cars using their devices for music, podcasts, etc.

Mistakes do happen.

James also shared a story about how modifying a design with too much customer input can lead to an “interesting” outcome.

GM seems to be incorporating both customer feedback and design thinking to improve the experience for customers. It’s encouraging to see such innovation and consideration for customers from such an established and important industry.

Any industry can learn how to hear customer feedback and weigh it against what’s next. Customers do sometimes have to be brought into the next innovation, but innovation without the voice of the customer does little to improve the experience.

(Thanks to James and GM for making time for us at the Auto Show! Isn’t that color blue on the Trax pretty!?)

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