16.10.2018

“We want to understand our customers’ requirements”

As in previous years, the annual summer testing took place under the hot sun of the Sierra Nevada in Granada, Spain, where automotive manufacturers put their cars well and truly through their paces. With differences in elevation of up to 2,600 meters and temperature differences of up to 20 degrees Celsius, the territory of this Spanish province provides the perfect conditions for the event. An ETAS team was on site and even provided a pit stop. What made it different was that the crew comprised not only support associates, but also associates from the development and user experience (UX) departments.

Developers gain insights
From a development perspective, a great advantage of these road tests is that they give ETAS developers the opportunity to observe firsthand how customers use ETAS products under real conditions. This helps our developers better understand the challenges customers face in their daily work. Silke Storandt, Smalltalk developer in the INCA Core Scrum Team at ETAS, was in Granada for a week, and she’s come away impressed: “It’s great to get customer feedback straight from the source. In the development departments, we normally don’t have direct contact with customers, so the summer testing is the ideal opportunity for us to communicate with them directly.”

But the customers themselves also see major benefits from having ETAS development associates at the event, as their presence ensures access to even more extensive technical support and they can also answer very detailed questions directly on site. 

Testing in trucks
Participating in a truck road test was undoubtedly a particular highlight for the ETAS team this year. The memory segments in the truck’s ECU description file were defined incorrectly, preventing the measuring process from starting. In other words, the file didn’t describe what it was supposed to describe. The ETAS support team modified the file so that it would give INCA – an ETAS software product that offers as a flexible tool for the calibration, diagnostics, and validation of automotive electronics systems – the proper input to start the measuring process. This was a great help to the customer, as ETAS’ quick support meant that the customer could make effective use of their valuable testing time. As a small reward, two associates from the ETAS team were invited to participate in a road test with the truck. “Seeing the whole system live during the drive and being able to watch how the customer works was really interesting. Insights like these give us valuable input for our own work,” says Silke Storandt, summing up this highlight. Janina Hofer, UX designer at ETAS, adds: “As a UX designer, I always need to understand the context: where, when, for what purpose, how, and why do customers use our software, and perhaps also why don’t they? This road test revealed precisely that.”

Personal on-site consulting
The truck situation described here also illustrates one of the greatest benefits customers gain from on-site support: they get help quickly, keeping the loss of valuable testing time to a minimum. “Test drivers can continue on their way and perform their measurements, and that’s what counts,” stresses Reimund Mayer, Specialist Support Engineering at ETAS, who likewise spent a week in Granada supporting the ETAS team. Customers had the option to either stop at ETAS’ own pit stop along the test route or call the Granada mobile support hotline. Help was then sent where it was needed. “You often have to be able to see the problem in order to understand it, and that’s what on-site support provides. The knowledge is right where the customer needs it,” Reimund Mayer points out.

Cross-border teamwork
Of course there are also inquiries that arise on site and can’t be solved right away. As Reimund Mayer explains, “Every fault is a challenge at first, but we were nearly always able to provide sufficient assistance to enable our customers to continue their work.” For difficult cases, the ETAS team had to collaborate across national borders: when issues couldn’t be solved directly, the ETAS team in Granada was actively supported by the team in Stuttgart-Feuerbach. In the end, thanks to the on-site associates, coupled with the knowledge and the research opportunities at the office in Stuttgart-Feuerbach, nearly all of the 50 inquiries were solved.

Focus on UX
“When developing new features, it’s important to have as much customer feedback as possible in order to later fulfill customer expectations as accurately as possible,” explains Janina Hofer. The ETAS UX team therefore aims to bring in customer opinions at an early stage of development, which is why, at this year’s summer testing, UX explicitly requested feedback on newer, not-yet-finalized products. One such device was the ETAS MDA V8 (Measure Data Analyzer), which is used to analyze ECU and vehicle measurement data.

“We want to understand our customers’ requirements,” says Silke Storandt in conclusion. This is ultimately the main reason why development and UX joined the support team on site. Overall, customer feedback was positive, praising the availability of support from such a cross-functional ETAS team. All in all, it was a perfect constellation that ETAS will surely rely on again next year – or as they say in sports: never change a winning team.