New ideas at the touch of a button
Unlike smartphones or sound systems, a new bathroom is not something that your customers purchase every few years. How does this affect product development?J.H.: This is why Hansgrohe does not manufacture trendy products that are dependent on fashion, but products that will last for many years. There's an initial phase, between 30 and 40 years of age, during which people engage intensively in “nest-building”. Apartments are purchased, houses built, bathrooms designed. Customers look for customised design solutions and ultimate convenience for their families. Everything has to be just right, and needs to be extremely durable. During the second phase – between the ages of 50 and 60, once the children have left home – people look at the challenges of ageing when they are renovating or rebuilding. Parents often receive care in their own homes. Lots of younger people are already planning their “cross-generation bathroom” ahead of time. Therefore it is also important for Hansgrohe to offer products and operating concepts that are age-independent.
Cue: the cross-generation bathroom. What are the main factors involved here?J.H.: We don't focus so much on special products for elderly people or those with limited mobility. In fact, experience has taught us that everyone ultimately wants to enjoy having a beautiful bathroom. At Hansgrohe the motto is: “There are no limits when it comes to beauty.” You should not be able to tell whether the users of the bathroom are old, disabled or in any way impaired! Elderly people don't want products for elderly people. Experienced people in particular often have high standards when it comes to quality, operation and design, and we aim to live up to these. Which is why we develop products and technologies that work for everyone. We try to understand the needs of our customers and to integrate these into our products in an elegant way.
What sort of products are these?J.H.: The new Raindance Select products, for example. They incorporate intuitive operation at the touch of a button, which is very popular in bathroom objects of design and utility. The Select button guarantees a high degree of user comfort, for young and old alike. It's just as easy to operate for those with impaired vision as it is for those who have difficulty moving their hands, or for those who cannot raise their arms properly any more. The Select products are inscribed with large symbols on a high-contrast background. You can operate them without looking – and can even use your elbows.
The ShowerSelect concealed thermostat won an award from the ZVSHK (German Central Association for Sanitation, Heating and Air Conditioning). What is it that the jury particularly liked?J.H.: Essentially, the jury's decision is an endorsement of our strategy. The ZVSHK aims to promote outstanding products that do not have the stigma of a “hospital room”. The Product Award recognised “Bathroom Design for All”. The jury deemed the key advantages to be: aesthetic design, user-friendliness and cross-generational product features to accommodate everyone's needs, including those with physical disabilities. By the way, we had the idea for the Select range when we were stuck in Strasbourg airport due to snowdrifts. As I mentioned: some of these ideas are simply sparked by a gut reaction …
Thank you very much for the interview.The interview was conducted by Katja Volkmer, freelance journalist, Munich.