Make Life Easy for Your Customers

by Mike Shipulski

Make Life Easy for Your Customers

Companies that have products want to improve them year-on-year. This year’s must be better than last year’s. For selfish reasons, we like to improve cost, speed and quality. Cost reduction drops profit directly to the bottom line. Increased speed reduces overhead (less labor per unit) and increases floor space productivity (more through the factory). Improved quality reduces costs. And for our customers, we like to improve their productivity by helping them do more value-added work with fewer resources. More with less! But there’s a problem – every year it gets more difficult to improve on last year, especially with our narrowly-defined view of what customers value.

And some companies talk about creating the next generation business model, though no one’s quite sure of what the business model actually is and what makes for a better one.

To break out of our narrow view of “better” and to avoid endless arguments over business models, I suggest an approach based on a simple mantra – Make It Easy.

Make it easy for the customer to _____________.

And take a broad view of what customers actually do. Here are some ideas:

  1. Make it easy to find you. If they can’t find you, they can’t buy from you.
  2. Make it easy to understand what you do and why you do it. Give them a reason to buy.
  3. Make it easy to choose the right solution. No one likes buying the wrong thing.
  4. Make it easy to pay. If they need a loan, why not find one for them?
  5. Make it easy to receive. Think undamaged, recyclable packaging, easy to get off the truck.
  6. Make it easy to install. Don’t think user manuals, think self-installation.
  7. Make it easy to verify it’s ready to go. No screens, no menus. One green light.
  8. Make it easy to deliver the value-added benefit. We over-focus here and can benefit by thinking more broadly. Make it easy to set up, easy to verify the setup, easy to know how to use it, easy change over to the next job.
  9. Make it easy to know the utilization. The product knows when it’s being used, why not give it the authority to automatically tell people how much free time it has?
  10. Make it easy to maintain. When the fastest machine in the world is down for the count, it becomes tied for the slowest machine in the world. Make it easy to know what needs be replaced and when, make it easy to know how to replace it, make it easy to order the replacement parts, make it easy to verify the work was done correctly, make it easy to notify that the work was done correctly, and make it easy to reset the timers.
  11. Make it easy to troubleshoot. Even the best maintenance programs don’t eliminate all the problems. Think auto-diagnosis. Then, like with maintenance, all the follow-on work should be easy.
  12. Make it easy to improve. As the product is used, it learns. It recognizes who is using it, remembers how they like it to behave, then assumes the desired persona.

Though this list is not exhaustive, it provides some food for thought. Yes, most of the list is not traditionally considered value-added activities. But, customers DO value improvements in these areas because these are the jobs they must do. If your competition is focused narrowly on productivity, why not differentiate by making it easy in a more broader sense? When you do, they’ll buy more.

And don’t argue about your business model. Instead, choose important jobs to be done and make them easier for the customer. In that way, how you prioritize your work defines your business model. Think of the business model as a result.

And for a deeper dive on how to make it easy, here’s one of my favorite posts. The takeaway – Don’t push people toward an objective. Instead, eliminate what’s in the way.

 
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Image credit: Pixabay

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shipulskiMike Shipulski brings together people, culture, and tools to change engineering behavior. He writes daily on Twitter as @MikeShipulski and weekly on his blog Shipulski On Design.

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