When processes or products suffer from inefficiency, a too-limited focus, or become less relevant, their designers try to “fix” the situation by requiring some action from the users. These “fixes” are an afterthought that usually require the performance of a series of onerous steps by the user to achieve the desired results, with little concern for the time and trouble they cause.
These fixes are often justified by defensive designers and producers with statements that underestimate the level of cooperation required from their customers, like, “Oh, you just…” followed by the work-around they expect the customer to do. Work-arounds are evidence of poor or inadequate design in the first place, and customers find them to be ‘just’ too much trouble.
It is a misconception to think it’s OK to produce and market products that are inefficient from the get go. It’s not OK. Here are a few thoughts to consider:
1. Complacency. Some producers get the idea that their product is just fine as is. If a customer wants this or that out of their product, “They just…” (fill it in). Then they are surprised when that same customer chooses a more relevant and efficient solution from a competitor.
2. TMT (Too Much Trouble). The implication that the user “just” does this or that with apparent ease is wrong because they have to “just” do it this or that way every time! The fact is, most of the time the work-around is just too much trouble. So the customer just gives up and just starts to look for a more relevant and elegant solution.
3. Reputation Suffers. Some companies are so eager to be first to market that they release their products prematurely. Their customers are then forced to endure recalls, fixes, patches and work-arounds. The market advantage they were striving for by being first is soon replaced with a poor reputation for reliability. And worse, they offended their customers by treating them like guinea pigs.
4. Customer Feedback. Sales and customer service people are the only ones in the company who are regularly talking to the customers and end-users, yet often they are overlooked as valuable sources of customer feedback. When the information they collect is shared and acted upon by the production and marketing folks, companies will more easily and quickly make changes that satisfy their customers.
We’ve seen the “You just…” mentality in software, hardware, consumer products, and even processes to deliver customer service. We have seen too many brand builders that don’t realize that if it’s too much trouble for their customers to buy or use their products, they simply won’t. We advise them to listen to their sales and customer service people, go back to their drawing boards, and come up with an easy to use and more relevant product. By quickly responding to their customers’ concerns, companies can achieve an excellent reputation, market leadership, and consumer loyalty.
Certainly, no company wants recalls, and neither do consumers. Same goes for work-arounds. With a bit more concern for what the customer wants on the front end, combined with the proper use of customer feedback from the sales and customer service folks, everybody wins. The alternatives are just TMT.
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders