Monday, August 15, 2016

Breaking Customer Compromises

In 1996, Harvard Business Review published an article entitled "Breaking Compromises, Breakaway Growth." In it they cited many brands that built successful businesses by identifying compromises that resulted in customer frustration and latent customer needs. By studying and then addressing those compromises, those brands were able to achieve industry distinction and noteworthy growth and profitability. 

I think it is time to address that concept again. In every industry, there are dominant business models to which most or all brands subscribe. Those business models sometimes leave something to be desired from a customer perspective. Perhaps, the businesses are only open 9 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday. Or perhaps the prices are prohibitive for a large number of customers. Or there is no financing readily available for purchases. Or the products are not intuitively easy to use. Maybe quality is not up to par. Or perhaps assembly is time consuming, frustrating or even nearly impossible. Perhaps there are safety or environmental concerns. Maybe the sizes or quantities are not optimized. Maybe the products do not feel good in a tactile sense. Maybe the look or colors are wrong. Maybe the batteries run out too fast. Maybe certain customer uses are not well understood or addressed. Maybe customer or technical support are abysmal. Maybe customers cannot easily find answers to the questions that they need to have answered before they can decide on a specific product or brand.

Brands that carefully listen to customer complaints through online product/brand rating websites, customer service departments, technical support departments, salespeople, customer research and other methods are able to identify areas for improvement. Instead of ignoring areas for improvement because "it is just not possible," "our business model would not allow it," "or production methods cannot support it" or "no one else in the industry is doing it," perhaps the right approach is thinking through how your products and brands can break those customer compromises to create a super solution. 

It great to get positive brand feedback. It is even better to receive negative feedback because that is the feedback that might result in breakthrough solutions and highly differentiated products and brands.

For more information on this topic, read about it in Brand Aid, second edition, available here

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