Now that the college class (Linguistics – Languages of the World) that’s consumed a chunk of my time for close to five months has ended, my focus is now 100% back on my business – writing for and about business.
My 1st free week without classes was spent under the umbrella of two intriguing business quotes that chose to journey with me throughout much of my week:
1. “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”
Source: ”Although controversy exists around the original author of this quote (Ghandi*, L.L. Bean, Kenneth B. Elliott, etc., numerous profit and nonprofit organizations these days post some alliteration of this quote on their walls and use it as part of their customer support training.
2. “Authentic marketing is not the art of selling what you make but knowing what to make. It is the art of identifying and understanding customer needs and creating solutions that deliver satisfaction to the customers, profits to the producers and benefits for the stakeholders.”
By the time I tucked myself behind my desk and nestled into my office chair ready to ponder and craft this week’s blog, it dawned on me that both quotes still tugged at me. Their intention and direction were crisp. They clearly wanted me to stop, recall, and reflect upon encounters, observations and episodes that had impacted my week and embedded themselves into the fabric of my personal and professional lives. The world around me had been illuminated by sightings of products and services attempting to interact and co-exist with their end-users (people) – products and services that, theoretically, had been designed and intended to “serve” these end-users. Inspired – no, driven – by these quotes, I viewed these interactive events in a very different way – from a deeper and more introspective perspective – with a keen eye in search of the concept of “usability.” I now wonder, “do companies really believe and embrace these quotes or do they simply reflect yet another form of corporate social media promotion?
My primary observation was that people traveled through their personal and professional lives constantly attempting to connect and interact with (no, actually struggling with) many products and services – cell phones, musical devices, travel bags, bus service, etc. – all of which in theory were presumably designed and created to reduce stress in these user’s lives – to help them experience an “easier”, more manageable, efficient, and fulfilling way of life as a result of their purchase. In each situation, the theory behind these creations did not seem to align with the “forced adaptive” behavior exhibited by each user. A tiny bit of research revealed that my own observations were not isolated, but reflected the experience of many:
“This product is more work than it is worth. It is supposed to make it easy to boil eggs because you don’t have to peel them, but instead, you have to oil, boil and then clean all these tiny parts that the egg sticks to. Please do not scam anymore people into buying such a poor products.”
Besides these everyday observances, I contemplated those hermetically sealed packages – inherently implicit in “wrap rage“. What were the designers thinking (or were they) when they created this type of packaging? Was this type of packaging intentionally designed to not only frustrate, but potentially impale – to say nothing of the inherent environmental impact? Even the simple act of opening a bottle or jar has become so misaligned with end-user desires and abilities.
With these images circling in and around me, I began to wonder: Maybe these end-users were not using these products or services in a way the company intended? Hmmm…should the company really be the one to dictate or mandate how an end-user employs or experiences a product or service? Don’t companies owe it to their customers to actually ask them what THEY want, need or expect from a product – or even how a customer planned or intended to use a product or service? Or has there become an inherent, rampant and “accepted” disconnect between the product the company puts into the marketplace and the end-user’s desires – wants and needs?
Observing these awkward (and oftentimes uncomfortable) end-user encounters caused me to reflect on days when companies actually engaged with and cared about products or services they created and put into the marketplace. Companies employed experienced marketing professionals – not just social media promotionalists – who conducted intensive market research and genuinely “reached out” to identify and learn more about their potential or existing customer through the use of various techniques, mediums and forums – surveys, focus groups, test markets, demographics, etc. – in order to gain a deeper and more comprehensive knowledge and understanding of their end-user “needs.”
As a seasoned marketing professional and perennial observer of mankind and events occurring around me, I’m pushed to ponder why folks are willing to “adapt” or “adjust” – almost become slaves (or indentured servants) – to these products and services. Aren’t products and services “suppose to be” designed to enhance and/or improve the lives of their users? Maybe our “appetites” for “new and unusual or different” have replaced comfort, convenience, functionality – those values that once offered a degree of freedom through design? Have we grown complacent with awkward, uncomfortable designs that don’t anticipate our lifestyles or needs? Is it possible that we continue to purchase these products and services because everyone we know does (the “Jones”” affect)?
Based on these observations and experiences, one has to wonder WHY? How could this disconnect continue to pervade our lives? At the end of each day many more questions arose than seemed to be answered through the basic act of observing and reflecting. In the end, I wondered who might be responsible for this disconnect –companies who design, manufacture and put these products into the marketplace – or us – the adaptable, unsuspecting, non-engaged purchasers and end-users? I’ll leave you to ponder that until next week…when I’ll share some thoughts on: “IS PUBLIC HUMILIATION always the ANSWER…”
*In Sikhism, seva refers to selfless service for altruistic purposes on behalf of, and for the betterment of a Community
Was Gandhi a Marketing Consultant? by Simran Khurana
“I am unable to verify the absolutely exact wording, but yes that is Gandhi. I can understand that most of the world associates Gandhi with a different genre. However, the way I see it, this part of his overall philosophy of ‘Seva.’ Loosely translated, Seva means service, as in service to humanity, service to the weak, service to the…Interesting eh”?
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