Consumer Ready

Mike McGough
March 2023

If someone is willing to do your work for you, let them.  That is unless you’re really committed and what to be responsible for that work.  One common inducement for letting others do your job or a portion of it, would be if letting them could save you time and money.  And if there were no serious repercussions for passing your responsibility off on someone else, you’d almost be a fool not to do so.  Could that be part of the 21st century thinking of many major companies where products are rushed to market, without adequate research and development, thus putting the burden on consumers to work out the bugs in their products, all the while assuming as little responsibility for the process as possible?   Consider the following three examples, then think about your own recent experiences dealing with BIG business. 

It started with a home computer with run-of-the-mill programs and a basic operating system.  Everything started off well; it was great.  Then there was a system upgrade that was at first optional, but over the next month or so, it became necessary if the various programs were to remain operational.  That’s when the problems started.  Error messages, unexpected shut downs, programs that failed time and again, lost data (some irretrievable), were but a few of the problems.  Numerous calls to someone in the country of God-only-knows-where that always ended up being an on-line assistant with programmed digital responses to only a limited number of questions were a joke.  Nothing changed, the problem persisted.  Finally, a standard-issue email message suggested taking the computer to a regional store a 90-minute drive away.  Three trips back and forth, 12 driving hours and at least that many more waiting, accomplished nothing.

On the fourth trip, he was asked to leave the computer.  The “expert” said there were numerous bugs in the new operating system, and the company was installing one of the old systems back on the computers until they could get the bugs work out of the new one.  No apology for time wasted, inconvenience, computer downtime, nor even a hint of reimbursement or expenses incurred. It was clear to this consumer, that he was an unpaid and totally unappreciated employee of what once was this company’s research and development department.   

The next episode was a pick-up truck.  It was only five-months old when the computer and electric system began failing.  Locks operated intermittently, once actually locking passengers in the truck.  Turning the wipers on often caused the radio to change stations, or the air conditioning to turn off.  The entertainment features of the vehicle seldom worked for more than a week at a time, and even though the dealership tried repeatedly to repair it, the problem persisted.  The final straw was when the idling speed would periodically become so rough that driving was difficult.

Sixteen trips back to the dealership, countless efforts to deal with lemon laws procedures, numerous dealer-initiated calls to the company’s engineering department, and several warranty referrals back to the manufacturer, were all totally rebuffed with statements like, “We’re aware of the problems and we’re working on them.”  “There’s nothing more we can do at this time, your patience is appreciated.”  Finally, the owner of the dealership, a real stand-up guy, took care of the situation, when he bought the truck back.  Eventually, it was reprogrammed and set right, but that took almost six more months.

The third example was at Frankie’s Pizza & Subs (not the real name).  The buns and pizza crust at Frankie’s were to-die-for delicious.  Nevertheless, Frankie wanted to experiment with a new recipe.  When you ordered, Frankie gave you the option to try the new recipe.  If you took a bite and didn’t like it, he’d replace it immediately, no charge.  When you were finished, he gave you a penny and asked you to put it in one of two jars on the counter.  They were marked GOOD and BAD.  You could also tell Frankie how you felt, he was accessible!  If you participated, he gave you a dollar-off coupon for your next visit.  A quick look at the jars indicated how others felt.  It was an open, easily-accessed, consumer-sensitive process.  Frankie assumed all of the expense, devoted his time, and compensated his customers for participating.  He assumed full responsibility for his research and product development.     

Big companies, should take a lesson from Frankie.   Do your own research and development.  Be accessible.  Quit hiding behind nightmarish telephone systems and programmed, online assistants.  If you want a bigger market share, make your products consumer ready, rather than just market ready.  There’s a big difference. 

BTW, Frankie’s new recipe was not consumer ready, so he went back to his kitchen to work on a new one!