NEWS

Chrysler Tapping Customers for Feedback

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While domestic automakers are reducing their employee ranks, Chrysler is looking for a few good men and women to join its company — 2,000 of them, to be exact, to serve on the industry’s first Online Customer Advisory Board.

Chrysler spokeswoman Carrie McElwee said that while automakers spend lots of time and money on consumer focus groups to gather information about future products, “focus groups usually are used one time for one product.”

“The advisory board is for ongoing dialogue between the company and consumers, with members serving for several months at a time,” she said.

The advisory group will focus on such things as new designs, products and technology, serving as a sounding board for the company and interacting with company officials as well as among themselves.

“It’s always a good idea to listen to the voice of the customer, and automakers always like getting feedback from consumers,” said Erich Merkle, director of forecasting for IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids. “But while that information is valuable, it can only take you so far. You can’t use it as a crutch. You still need someone with an intuitive feel to make the decisions, not only for what customers want but for what customers don’t even know yet that they want. You need someone like a Bob Lutz who says, ‘This is it.’”

The work will all be handled online, though McElwee didn’t rule out group meetings or possible vehicle test drives.

“Through our online Customer Advisory Board, we have a new platform to engage our customers in two-way dialogue so we can harness their insights and vehicle dreams as we move quickly to develop and refine technologies and products,” said Deborah Meyer, vice president and chief marketing officer.

Before you dust off your resume, be advised that to be considered for the board you have to be a U.S. citizen at least 18 years old with a valid driver’s license. You also have to have a computer and be willing to work gratis.

To participate in the Customer Advisory Board, submit an application at www.ChryslerListens.com.

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