Design Interactive Studio Offers Hands-on Experience

Design Interactive Studio Offers Hands-on Experience

By John Filippelli

Recently introduced by Benton Harbor, MI-based Whirlpool Corp. and St. Joseph, MI-based KitchenAid, the Insperience Studio is designed to offer hands-on interaction with working appliances for consumers, dealers and designers.

The 12,000-sq.-ft. facility, located here, showcases the latest refrigerators, dishwashers, ovens, ranges, laundry products and appliances offered by both brands, but the focus is not on selling product. Instead, the interactive environment is designed to help dealers and consumers focus on design that suits their individual lifestyles.
Highlighting the studio are seven working displays (consisting of six kitchen vignettes as well as Whirlpool Corp.'s Family Studio), which range from small, sleek kitchen designs for young couples to larger kitchens designed for an active dual-income family.

According to Jan Walters, director of Insperience Studio, the different kitchens are available for chef demonstrations, cooking classes and product training.

But, most importantly, the Insperience Studio allows people to test drive the appliances in a no-pressure environment, Walters says.

"Our core goal is customer service," reports Walters. "We want people to relax when they enter the studio."
Once customers enter the studio, they are greeted by a concierge who takes their initial information. The customers then have a one-on-one consultation with selection consultants to define who will be using the appliances and how they will be used.

"By getting into a lifestyle conversation, we believe we can better meet their needs," Walters notes.
This is a crucial part of the experience. "The challenge is to collect their data and make sure that it is being documented to the appropriate areas."

To better disseminate the information, the selection consultants carry laptops, which help them keep track of client data. They can also print it out as a reference.

"If they are retail customers, they will be entered into the database, and we will match them up with a trade partner [to better pinpoint their needs]," she notes.

"As we do this, we will specifically be able to direct them to products and show them what we have selected for them based on their information," she continues.

Of equal importance, according to Walters, is the follow-up that occurs after consumers have made their selections.

While follow up is done with consumers, she notes that, "We also call the trade partners to make sure they understand that the customer has gone through the selection process and that they know what the client has selected."

As Walters explains, "If customers come in with a designer or builder, they already know they are going to purchase something they just don't know what they are going to buy."

To help the customer in his or her quest, they studio is designed to offer a "full customer-service experience" that incorporates the product training so they can better understand the intricacies of the appliances.

While the Whirlpool and KitchenAid appliances on display at Insperience Studio are not for sale on-site, guests are welcome to come in and prepare a meal or do a load of laundry, she notes.

But, she points out, the studio is not just beneficial for consumers. "This is a great environment for designers to work in because they can come down with a client and bring their plans and lay [the plans] out on the conference room table. That way, they can look at the appliances and make an informed decision," she remarks. "This is great, because it offers a much quicker exchange of information and creates less confusion between the client and the designer, remodeler or builder."

This also lends itself to a seamless experience, she adds, because, "the concept behind the studio is based on lifestyles rather than price points."

As Walters concludes, "Our interaction [with consumers] has always been through [third-party relations.] This gives us a venue to talk with them and get information about the specific types of products or services they are looking for."