Yves Karcher: EMBA assignment leads to new Logitech product

When Yves Karcher set about the 'Learning from your Customer' assignment as part of his IMD Executive MBA, he could hardly have imagined the impact it would have on him and his company.

Just 12 months down the line, his company - logitech, the leading manufacturer of cordless PC peripherals - has just unveiled the first in a new generation of wireless presentation devices - a direct result of Yves' EMBA project.

The assignment introduced Yves to a novel approach that involved him (an engineering director and product unit manager for Retail Pointing Devices) carrying out intensive one-to-one interviews with customers and analyzing the feedback on their experience and needs.

In Yves' case, he selected nine representatives from the customer target base and spent two to three hours with each of them, in their own environment. He even asked them to demonstrate how they present, describing their fears and frustrations and their likes and dislikes as they went along.

The end result is the new 2.4 gigahertz Cordless Presenter--a product that addresses many of the concerns Yves had pinpointed such as: keeping to time (features a programmable timer with large LCD display and vibration feedback when five and two minutes remain) and the ability to redirect the audience's attention back to the person presenting (the user is able to turn the display to black-the equivalent of switching off an overhead projector).

Crediting IMD Yves says, "To say that this product would never have existed if not for this assignment is no exaggeration. We would have launched a new product at some point, but not this one." His colleague, Ashish Arora, Logitech Director of Product Marketing, Retail Pointing Devices, agrees, "If Yves had not been involved, we would not have done any additional research. Probably we would have just relaunched the Cordless Presenter at a cheaper price with little or no feature changes."

That's not to say that getting the product to market was plain sailing. Yves first had to sell the idea to his marketing colleagues that an engineer could, or should, assume the role of a market researcher and--inevitably--there were times during the development of the product when tensions rose and compromises had to be made.

Yves comments, "If I had not done the project for IMD, I would not be so passionate about the outcome. I felt a duty to improve the product for the customers based on what I had heard." His long-term goal is to see the same research approach used for all future development projects, "I want to redirect engineering--give them a challenge and keep them motivated and not have the expectation that what they want personally is what marketing will sell... Ideally, I woulefer that marketing and engineering conduct interviews together."

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