Tag Archives: product development

Turning a product “miss” into a CRM “hit” – The iPhone 4 and the Kin

This week, Microsoft and Apple both announced what many would refer to as “misses” in their mobile device product lines.

misses-200x111Microsoft cancelled their Kin social media telephone product line (less than six weeks after launching it). Apple admitted to flaws in its signal meter of its iPhone 4 (and all other prior iPhones). However, it has countered industry and consumer reports regarding problems with its newly redesigned antenna—one that many customers are purchasing of a USD $30 case (or bumper in the UK) to mitigate.

Both of these situations have led to stories in both the tradition and social media that raise a common points: consumers feel as if they have been let down by a established company they trusted enough to invest money in a newly-released product. This is a classic customer relationship management (CRM) miss that reduces customer loyalty. However it is one that both companies can easily repair in a way that restores long-term trust.

What I would do if I were at Microsoft

Microsoft is investing heavily in a revamp of its new Windows Mobile line. (This is the very reason they gave for ending the Kin). Take advantage of this by sending all customers who bought a Kin a coupon that lets them obtain a free new Windows Mobile smart phone if they pick from a list of specified (partner) providers and continue their contract through completion.

This would let Microsoft provide a high cash-equivalent (i.e., retail price of the phones) offer for a fraction of the price (the true external cost of the phone after removal of partner revenue sharing). It would transform legitimately disgruntled customers into potential evangelists of their new strategic products. It would also restore trust: customers would see very clearly that buying a new Microsoft mobile product is a safe thing to do.

What I would do if I were at Apple

The Apple situation is complicated by a two contradictions: 1) Apple’s testing indicates that signal meter problems exists but the antenna problem does not, while 2) many of their customers firmly believe there is an antenna problem. Apple does not win by trying to tell customers their belief is wrong (or offering them their money back if they return their new phones within 30 days of purchase). However, there is a simple fix…

Email everyone who bought the iPhone 4 a coupon (an experience well-known at the Apple store) that provides a link to download a the new signal meter fix and provides a USD $30 gift certificate for any product or accessory at the Apple and iTunes stores to compensate them for the signal meter inconvenience. Customers now have the choice to use this to 1) “buy” (for free) the case to “fix” their “antennae problem,” 2) do nothing or 3) use the certificate to buy another product (potentially one more expensive that the gift certificate). By providing customers the power to choose, they can very quickly show good service without engaging in a “perception vs. reality” debate.

The cost and time-sensitivity of restoring customer loyalty

The cost of these actions is low—especially when one considers their true cost (vs. their retail value) and compares this to the overall profit across a smart phone purchase and two-year access plan. The benefits are enormous: good reputation, facilitated upgrade of the book revenue per customer, and conversion of a customer from someone who is likely to turn to a competitor to one who is likely to return. However, achieve this, both of these companies must move quickly, in the next 10 days: before negative experiences become permanent brand opinions.

Seven must-have attributes for collaboration tech

Over the past 20 years, “collaboration” has been used to categorise a wide variety of products: instant messaging, email, chat, calendaring, document management, content management, learning management, publishing, discovery, crowdsourcing, and many others.

Even with a range of products this broad, I have repeatedly found seven attributes that separate winning collaboration products (i.e., products people choose – or even demand – to use) from also-rans:

1. Intuitive: Pass the “no instructions needed” test

To foster collaboration a product needs to be truly intuitive. The best way to measure this is with the “no instructions needed” test: if you can put the product in front of any intended user (i.e., your target market) and they can understand enough to explore and use it on your own, you have passed. If not, you have failed: over time people will say your product is too hard to use (and will use it only when forced to do so).

2. Easy: Complete key activities in three clicks or fewer

Collaboration and convenience go “hand in hand.” If your product takes too much effort to use, people will not use it to collaborate. Based on lots of user feedback the hurdle for convenience is three clicks. If something takes more than three clicks to do, it is too complicated. If you can get to what you need in three clicks or less, you have a winner. If your product cannot, one of your competitors will find a way to do and take your market.

3. Convenient: Eliminate work; do not add to it

This is one I am seeing many people forget lately. To make work easier, and drive organic demand, your product needs to eliminate work. It needs to align with the work activities people do as part of their everyday job and remove time, activities and/or systems. If it just “adds another system people have to use (and cut-and-paste from)” it is adding work and will (at best) be a passing fad that will fall out of use.

4. Fast: Pass the “Two x 95-p” test

One of the things that the Internet and broadband have done is raise expectations for speed and response. Watch a person click a button (a browser, a smart phone, a TV electronic programming guide, etc): if response does not take less than two seconds (95% of the time or more), the product will be considered slow and exasperating. This is even truer for enterprise systems that people are required to use to perform their job. You need to be fast—and consistently fast.

5. Ubiquitous: Operate everywhere and anywhere

The whole reason to use a collaboration product is to let people who are not sitting right next to each other collaborate with ease. This means your product must work everywhere and anywhere—passing both the “no instructions needed” and “two by 95p” tests. This is not a trivial demand. However, it is essential. If you do not believe me go to one your international offices or mobile team members and try to collaborate using main office-oriented products.

6. Timely: Collaborate from the same data, at the same point in time

There is an old joke about asking six blindfolded people to touch different parts of an elephant and tell you what it is: one thinks it is a tree trunk, one a fire hose, etc. The same is true for collaboration products: if you are working from out-of-date data you are wasting your time. (If you don’t believe me, think about the last time you responded to an email in a chain only to find out minutes later that your response was out-of-date or irrelevant). Winning collaboration products let everyone work from the same data, at the same point in time.

7. Trusted: Provide utility-class reliability

Collaboration occurs all the time (often at unpredictable times). Collaboration is not “down for maintenance.” If people cannot count on a collaboration product to be there, they will not use it (because they cannot trust it). They will find other tools: saving documents to local disk, writing things down on paper to enter them later, sending them via email, etc. Winning collaboration products are “always-on.” Always-on does not equal 99% reliability; it requires 99.99% reliability or more (Would you use your credit card in public if it failed one percent of the time?)

Why did I pick seven attributes (and not ten)? Ten would be artificial. These truly are the attributes I have seen over and over trip up otherwise good collaboration products and set the winners apart from others (regardless of market or industry).