May 20, 2011

Don't Fix Your Customers' Problems Too Quickly!

My sister and I enjoyed "mining for gold" every summer when we went with our grandmother to Highlands, NC. We scooped out a sizable amount of dirt, put it in our sifting pan, and carefully sifted through searching for tiny flakes of gold. When your customers complain, when problems are presented to you, then you have an opportunity to not simply improve but, more so, to sift through and find an idea for a disruptive product/service.

When customers' have problems there are three levels of reaction:

Level One: Quickly and professionally listen to the customer and solve his problem

Level Two: Level One done, learn from the experience -- identify areas of opportunity and make improvements

Level Three: Level One and Two done, dig deeper. Fly out to the customers' factory, fly her out to you, go to the retail store, you and the team meet her for lunch, crawl inside his head and never stop asking "Why?"

The Best Question, Ever!

Do this today: find a colleague, buy her lunch, and ask her "Why?" the product/service you offer is valuable. Then ask her "Why?" 10 more times. You might end up at the core pain point that launched the idea for your service/product; or you might learn her perspective on the core pain point; or you might invent a new disruptive product!

Do this sometime soon: the same exercise above with a customer instead of a colleague.

"You know my methods, Watson."

In order to mine our customers' problems for disruptive ideas we have to act like Sherlock Holmes, implementing every investigative method we know to reach into the core of the matter.

My iPhone USB Cable is Broken

It's been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage; I need a new cable. I walk into the Apple Store to buy one. I go to the counter to purchase it. No one asks me "Why?" I need a new cable. If they did, I would say: "My old one is torn." Then someone should ask me "Why?" again. I'd say: "Because I was using it in my car and pulled/twisted it often." Then someone should ask me "Why?" once more. I'd say: "Because I move my iPhone all over the place when I'm in my car (to my left ear, to my right ear, on the seat next to me, in the console between seats, to my friend sitting next to me, to his ear, etc.); and when I'm in my car, my iPhone is always plugged in."

Maybe I should buy a "coiled cable" for my car. Or maybe Apple should figure out how to charge my iPhone wirelessly while I am using the phone in my car. "Wireless" charging already exists to a degree -- you can place your phone on a pad, but I want it to charge while I'm using it! (How has the pad solved my core issue? It hasn't and that's why it wasn't a disruptive product when introduced in 2009.)

Read this article:

Apple is looking into wireless charging, but the focus at this time appears to be on placing the phone onto a pad. This does not solve my core problem; this is not significantly disruptive. But what gets me really excited is what I read at the end of the article: solar-based charging! So I never have to plug in at night? I don't have to plug in when I get in the car? I don't need cables ever again?!

You just disrupted my world, Apple, and I'm going to pay you money for it.

Don't Fix Your Customers' Problems Too Quickly

Quick response to customer issues is highly important, of course. But don't "fix" the problem so quickly that you miss the disruptive idea. Become your company's/industry's greatest detective; there is gold at the heart of every customer issue.

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