In the run up to the 2012 launch of its 208 model, carmaker Peugeot has set up a forum where customers and developers can exchange comments and ideas. This is primarily a Communication drive but it has also enabled Peugeot to make some further improvements to its product.

If a company wants to encourage its customers to engage and identify with the brand, the best way is to bring into the loop those who actually design the products.  With this in mind, Peugeot set up a platform aiming to respond to customers’ questions on the famous Lion brand’s 208 model, due for launch next spring. But the real attraction is that you can put your point directly to the vehicle designers. Once on the site, an Internet user can access files containing the CVs and fields of expertise of the developers. S/he can then choose who s/he would like to talk to, depending on whether the question relates to the design, the options or the engine type.

Information for the manufacturer as well as the customer

Quentin de Boissieu, Community Manager at Peugeot says that "what is attractive about this approach is that it enables an enquirer to get in touch with a real person who’s directly involved in the project". As a general rule, the only link the Internet user has is in fact with the Community Manager, who rarely has the background to provide appropriate answers to specific – especially technical – questions. So the Peugeot initiative adds value for the customer, but for the brand as well. "By gathering questions from potential buyers we’ve been able to identify the key points needing improvement and make those improvements prior to launch," explains Quentin de Boissieu. This really embodies the spirit of ‘open innovation.’

Clear success despite internal problems setting up the platform

According to the website managers, 228 different questions have been posted. Meanwhile other site visitors have the opportunity to rank each question for relevance. And it’s noteworthy that 40% of the site traffic has come from the Facebook interface, which underlines the importance of having a Community of active fans. "Contrary to what one might imagine," adds Quentin de Boissieu, "the most difficult aspect was not launching the initiative to customers but rather trying to convince our colleagues inside the company of the value of this kind of approach".