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By David J.
the headline above represent an attitude that customers are drawn to? Or
does it sound like a customer strategy taken right from the Seinfeld’s “Soup
customers prefer choice and the ability to influence every last detail in
their decisions about certain products and services? I say “yes”—they prefer
choice. Unilateralism on the part of product and server providers is not the
pathway to marketplace success; it creates undesirable friction in the
more sophisticated the buyer and the more configurable the product or
service, the more giving the customer access to what they want comes into
play. Here are a few examples factors that influence choice in a product or
Longevity/useful life of a product or service
and more products are disposable (and, I should point out, recyclable). A
decision about buying a tooth brush does not have the same gravity that an
electric toothbrush does. [Which brand and model did my dentist want me to
buy?] An electric toothbrush doesn’t have the same purchasing gravity as a
new television or a major appliance or a cell phone service contract. A home
or car has a long, useful life and is one or the bigger decisions a customer
makes so it certainly represents the highest level of purchasing gravity.
There is, of course, more choice at the high end.
can acquire a dress shirt from Lands End in an easy, convenient way—I
order online or by phone and a product shows up according to my shipping
instructions. Quick, easy, convenient, reliable, and predictable. Or, I
can go to a retailer and purchase from the selection they have on hand.
could order a highly-customized dress shirt from a company like Blank Label
that I’m virtually assured will be unique and help me stand out in a crowd.
I can order online and, in a few weeks, receive a shirt made just for me.
Blank Label offers highly-customized shirts for people who want something
unique and differentiated from “off-the-rack” shirts and can wait a bit to
receive a highly-customized product. Sure, you’ll pay more and wait longer
to get what you’ve ordered, but, the tangible and intangible value is much,
much higher. And, a company like Blank Label doesn’t have to
discount—customers are getting products produced to their exacting
requirements—discounting never comes into play.
Uniqueness in services like travel
Let’s say I am planning a trip. Will I book over the Internet, use a
travel agent or some combination of both? Which air carrier will I
choose; first class, coach, frequent flyer miles or no; non-stop or not;
5-star, 3-star, or 1-star hotel; departure time, arrival time; meals
included or not; recreation included or not, car rental, transportation
to the airport and the return. So many choices!
longer the trip’s duration or distance, the more complications and choice
one faces. A quick trip from Silicon Valley to LA for a day is much easier
that a week traveling from Silicon Valley to New York City. When I recently
traveled from Silicon Valley to Boston, I decided to drive the extra miles
and time to fly out of San Francisco so I could take a non-stop flight
creating peace of mind by not worrying about a missed connection midway
through my trip.
A World of Constant Evolution
world is constantly changing and competition is abundant, even in
situations where companies have enjoyed virtual monopolistic status.
For example, Airbus (while hardly an overnight success) didn’t achieve
roughly 50% market share by producing a product that airlines didn’t
want. Airbus produces aircraft that employ a more common user interface
and “fly-by-wire” technology that simplifies crew training and makes it
easier to move pilots from one aircraft type to another. Airbus went
from a position of “nobody” to “somebody” in the world of commercial
aircraft and clearly has become a key player in the commercial airline
marketplace at Boeing’s expense.
Companies offering products and services need to look for and resolve any
points of friction between customer needs and wants and what the company is
currently offering to increase their market share and build loyal customers
who are raving fans.
Gardner, has held management and
senior management positions in Product Development,
Manufacturing, Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service, and
Product Management. He joined Tandem Computers in 1979 where
he was responsible for Corporate Documentation Standards for
Tandem's highly configurable and expandable computer
systems. In 1983, he designed and implemented a
Configuration Guide for Dialogic Systems instituting a
process that greatly simplified a complex, modular product
such that the field sales organization and international OEM
customers could easily define their order requirements. This
methodology satisfied the product definition needs of sales,
marketing, engineering, manufacturing, customer service and
finance. David founded his consulting practice in 1991. He
is a graduate of San Jose State University (BA) and Santa
Clara University (MBA). David is a member of the Society for
the Advancement of Consulting (SAC) and has been Board
Approved in the Area of Configurable Product & Services
Strategy and Implementation. In 2010, he was inducted in the
Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame. Out of
over 1,000 consultants who have completed Alan Weiss’s
mentoring program, only 26 have been inducted in the Hall of
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