Why is life so damned difficult?
- I buy an expensive Toshiba laptop and get lots of litte bits of bother and frustration. Nice product, but why all the grief?
- An elderly friend buys a computer … and I end up spending hours here and there helping her fix the damned thing. Why should little old ladies have to worry about running virus scanners, installing ad- and spy-ware busters, doing XP-SP2 upgrades? I would have advised her to buy a Mac, but all of the local “PC training for old folks” courses use Windows.
- I buy a 2nd hand car. The next day a warning light comes on. Actually 3 warning lights come on – 2 are orange and flashing, the other one grey. I’m stuck on the edge of the motor way reading the manual, in a mild panic, only to discover that one of the tyres needs a little bit more air in it. Why didn’t the car sales yard pump the tyre up properly during it’s multi-phase pre release inspection? Did they even do an inspection?
- I buy a .25 tonne sunday-newspaper only to find the magazine section (with the recipes section) missing.
- I register for VAT online and am told – after I’ve pressed submit – that I put in the wrong date in one field. But, there’s no option to fix it. I ring up and get told to do one thing. Yikes! I ring back and get told to do another. I end up having to send a letter to the VAT people asking them to correct my application. I should have just sent the paper application in the first place.
- I go to the open university’s recently much improved website but don’t type in the www before the open.ac.uk. I end up in no-mans-land.
- My friend Graeme, who works in a furniture shop, tells me that the salesmen (they’re all men) blatantly lie to customers. I’m so niave that I didn’t believe him.
- I order a book from Amazon.co.uk. It arrives a couple of days later.
- If I don’t like the book I have 30 days, no-questions-asked, to return it.
Now, take out your credit card and go purchase Lean Thinking authors Daniel Jones and James Womack's latest HBR article "Lean Consumption" . It only costs $6.00 and it’s worth every penny.
“OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS, the real price of most consumer goods has fallen worldwide, even as the variety of goods and the range of sales channels offering them have continued to grow. Meanwhile, product quality -- in the sense of durability and number of delivered defects -- has steadily improved.
So, if consumers have access to an ever-growing range of products at lower prices, with fewer lemons, and from more formats, why is consumption often so frustrating? Why do we routinely encounter the custom-built computer that refuses to work with the printer, the other computers in the house, and the network software? Why does the simple process of getting the car fixed require countless loops of miscommunication, travel, waiting, and defective repairs? Why does the diligent shopper frequently return from a store stocking thousands of items without having found the one item that was wanted? And why is this tiresome process of consumption backed up by help desks and customer support centers that neither help nor support? In short, why does consumption --which should be easy and satisfying -- require so much time and hassle?
It doesn't have to -- and shouldn't. Companies may think that they save time and money by off-loading work to customers, making it the customer's problem to get the computer up and running, and wasting the customer's time. In fact, however, the opposite is true. By streamlining the systems for providing goods and services, and making it easier for customers to buy and use them, a growing number of companies are actually lowering costs while saving everyone's time. In the process, these businesses are learning more about their customers, strengthening consumer loyalty, and attracting new customers who defect from less user-friendly competitors …”
They offer 6 principles of lean consumption:
- Solve the customer's problem completely by insuring that all the goods and services work, and work together.
- Don't waste the customer's time.
- Provide exactly what the customer wants.
- Provide what's wanted exactly where it's wanted.
- Provide what's wanted where it's wanted exactly when it's wanted.
- Continually aggregate solutions to reduce the customer's time and hassle.
Go buy the article. It’s a keeper.