How Bentley reads your mind

Too much choice can be overwhelming.

It’s like when you’re in a restaurant with an enormous menu; the breadth of choice is so bewildering that you always end up just ordering a steak or a chicken parmigiana.

Bentley faces a similar conundrum. It estimates that it offers around 1.3 billion different specification combinations, yet the vast majority of its customers still choose white/silver/black cars and similarly safe trim colour choices.

In order to help its customers think outside the square a little, Bentley invited media to sample the new ‘Bentley Studio’, a computer programme that is able to form what is essentially a personality profile of the customer, which then allows Bentley’s sales team to suggest certain colour and trim combinations individually tailored to that customer.

It works like this: the program flashes up two icons at a time showing different scenarios. It might be a picture of the beach and a picture of the forest, or a picture of a restaurant and a picture of a picnic, and the customer simply has to tap which scenario appeals more to them.

The program then collates the selections and displays your ‘profile’, which consists of three different groups: things you said yes to almost immediately, things you deliberated over for a moment, and things you said no to immediately.

This information gives the Bentley sales person insight into a customer’s like and dislikes and, from there, suggest certain colours for the exterior and interior.

For example, a customer might show a strong predilection for the outdoors, in which case perhaps some natural tones like blues, greens and browns will be suggested. If the customer is of a more modern predisposition, silvers and whites might be more to their taste.

Bentley is hoping to take it one step further with facial recognition technology that can absorb customers’ reactions to certain colours or textures.

Apparently, it works. Bentley’s lead exterior designer, David Fearnley, tells the story of a gentleman who originally wanted a black car, because he’d always had black cars. Through this process and following a number of suggestions and consultations with Bentley staff, he ended up taking delivery of a light blue car, and was, by all accounts, very happy with his selection as it better reflected his own personal taste.

It might sound a bit like science fiction, but it’s an interesting insight into how keen premium car manufacturers are to deliver a unique customer experience; we’d expect other manufacturers to develop similar programs in the near future.

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