I was involved in this consulting project during my three-month internship at LOE Design (LOE). Our client, Shanghai Mitsubishi Elevator (SME), is the largest native elevator and escalator brand in China. SME invited LOE to review and evaluate the design, sales and service of one of their major product series. LOE proposed the design and business strategy for SME based on various trends as well as their performance in last ten years.
To comply with the non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted and obfuscated confidential information in this case study. All information in this case study is based on my OWN memory 2 years after the project and does not necessarily reflect the facts.
Elevators are sold with or without pre-installed interior. Buyers can choose the car that matches the interior style of the building or ask interior design company to decorate the car after purchase.
When considering the additional decoration cost, elevator cars with pre-installed interior (refer as finished car onwards) generally holds price advantage against unfinished car (elevator cars without interior decoration) for a majority of buyers who don't need a very specialized interior style inside the elevator car.
We were asked to review and evaluate the customer experience and design of the finished car in last ten years (2005-2015) and propose design and business strategy in future. The client was concerning about competitions from international brands’ finished cars, they were also interested in whether finished cars can become a new cash cow for their company. However, at the outset of the project, we were not given a clear mission or specific goals.
There are three kinds of inputs that the client passed to us: comprehensive sale records of the finished car in last 10 year, product brochures of major competitors and existing feedback from customer and sales personals. Then we began to digest the information, set up research plan and deliverables togerther with our client.
Quantitative analysis is feasible since we have comprehensive data. There are many attributes behind a pair of car and buyer, so we were trying to figure out whether previous data reveals any correlation between them, eg. government buyers in the south China prefer minimal style.
It turned out that correlations between any attributes are neither conflicting with our preconceived ideas nor showing a causality that makes sense to us. What’s worse, some crucial factors are hard to be transformed into dummy variables to be quantified effectively, such as different interior style, visual preference, cultural habits, etc. Fortunately, data reveals many other insights that are useful for planning site visits.
Product samples from the client and major competitors were summarized in the conceptual map. We obtained several style clusters from the map. Design languages of each cluster were documented to serve as the reference for future design of online application used by sales for demonstration purpose.
We also paid attention to the number of variations that belong to each style that potentially indicate the popularity, but the conclusions were not totally convincible since we didn’t have sale data of competitors. In general, we had obtained a relatively comprehensive spectrum of styles to work on in following research.
Based on problems showed in existing feedback, we interviewed several sales who contributed feedbacks in order to have a more clear understanding of the situation where our customer and products encounter. Instead of going straight to the need of the customer and our salesperson, the main purpose of the interview is to identify what regions we should visit and what questions we should pay attention to.
After the internal interview, we felt it’s urgent to directly talk with the customer of our client, we need to understand and evaluate the customer experience from the very beginning of the contact between buyers and our client. Internal communication between local companies and the headquater was not as effective as what we expected, needless to say, collobration between in-house design team with local sales and operation personnel. Therefore, we teamed up with in-house designers from the client and conducted site visits.
We visited five most representative cities in China to closely observe and talk with local staff, customers, and other stakeholders. Although being not exhaustive, we also collected many interior and elevator samples of various buildings such as hotel, government, residential apartment for reference and qualitative analysis.
Generally speaking, it demonstrated a great regional variety among buyers because different level economic development and culture in China, especially when it came to the mid-age generation who are much less homogeneous than the younger generation. They are the major age group who may consider buying elevators. However, we did find the way to categorize them and summarize characteristics of these customers.
We compared the journey maps of three kinds of customers in terms of the duration of their engagement with our client and stakeholders involved in the purchase during a typical one-year period as the following:
The whole project reached an interim milestone at the end of my 3 months summer internship. The project structure is summarized as followings. Deliverables in gray were not finilized yet when my internship ended.