Pentair Thermal Management is a full-service designer and integrator of optimized heat management systems. For over 50 years, this company knows that innovation and customer satisfaction are the keys to success. With the help of Human Interface Group, the company recently developed a user-friendly and innovative floor heating thermostat for the international market.
In this interview Patrick Hendrickx, Product Manager at Pentair Thermal Management, talks about developing the Raychem SENZ thermostat together with Human Interface Group.
What convinced you to work with a UX company?
Patrick Hendrickx: We noticed there were some problems with our thermostat at the time. Our end users found the thermostat and its manual too complicated. This became our starting point for the development of the Raychem SENZ thermostat. Of course the look and feel had to be updated, but the user experience needed to improve as well.
We noticed rather quickly that in the latter area, we didn’t have the necessary in-house expertise. That’s why we started looking for the experts. We talked to various European players. Human Interface Group turned out to be the best match.
What was the added value of working with Human Interface Group?
Patrick Hendrickx: There was added value particularly when it came to setting the framework for the design process. I found the brainstorming sessions and exchange of information during the entire project very informative. This allowed me to easily translate the needs of our target group and my own idea of the Raychem SENZ thermostat to the manufacturer. Because the development process went so smoothly, we now occupy a trendsetting position in the market with the Raychem SENZ and SENZ WIFI.
In addition, the expertise that Human Interface Group has was also very useful in helping us get all parties on board internally. It’s easier to convince people when you have experts to back you up.
What have you learned from the entire process, were there real eye-openers for you?
Patrick Hendrickx: If I were to highlight just one key lesson, it would be the observational voice of customers. While testing the thermostat, I learned that you shouldn’t ask your test users direct questions. Users instinctively know there is something wrong with the design, but can’t always pinpoint it exactly. It’s important to observe how users interact with the user interface and to correctly interpret where they get stuck during the tests.
The Raychem SENZ comes with very little documentation. Was this a deliberate choice?
Patrick Hendrickx: Right from the start, we wanted to develop a thermostat that is easy to operate and doesn’t need additional support. With the help of Human Interface Group, we achieved this goal.
The documentation is very brief, with a one-page website that offers a few installation videos. In fact, there isn’t any demand for an elaborate instruction manual.
The product was launched in November 2016, what can you say about the results so far?
Patrick Hendrickx: We’re very happy with the sales so far, especially taking into account the fact that electric floor heating is currently still a niche market.
We were especially pleasantly surprised by the success of the Wi-Fi model. At the moment, the ratio of the sales is about 40% standard models and 60% Wi-Fi models. This really exceeds our expectations.
Finally, would you opt to work with a UX company again for a next project?
Patrick Hendrickx: Yes, definitely. Looking at the development trajectory, you’ll find there are three phases. First, you have to define what it is you want; i.e. what is the customer waiting for. Then you can start developing. And only then can you launch the product in the market. That first defining phase is crucial. If you know what you want right from the start, the development process will be much easier and cheaper, and you’ll make fewer mistakes.
The expertise Human Interface Group offered us in this first phase has certainly made a big difference.