Are you becoming obsolete or giving your customers what they need?

Craig Reid

When I was a student one of my favourite pastimes was browsing through CD shops. I would spend many a spare hour doing so. Fast forward 15 years and CD shops are now almost complete a relic of a former age. But despite the fact that they're gone I don't miss them at all.

I now buy all my music via iTunes and I can sit in the comfort of my own home, browsing my iPad, listening to samples of the music then purchasing and downloading the music instantly. The outcome of the process essentially remains the same over 15 years - buy music. But the process itself has become simpler, faster and more enjoyable. Technology has acted as an enabler, but this also required some customer centric thinking to get the mix right.

Nostalgia won’t get you very far

Soon we'll see the demise of bookshops (iPads and Kindles will take care of that), Retail & Rental DVD shops (iTunes and Netflix will cream that) as well as post offices (dwindling postage numbers & prepaid options will kill them). And I won't miss those either. Sure we might all end up couch potatoes that don't have any need to move, but it will also free up all that wasted time traveling to retail stores so that we can do some exercise!

So what are the lessons from a process point of view?

  • Think about what the outcome is for the customer - did they want to buy a CD? No they wanted to buy music (think iTunes)
  • Think about how you can make their life easier - they don't need to travel to a store where there is limited stock (think Amazon)
  • Think about how you can make things faster - they don't need to spend time browsing a store or fumbling to pay, they want it now!

The outcome may remain the same, but if we focus on the customer experience of the process, the customer gets what they really need, not what we think they want - or as Henry Ford once put it...

"If I'd asked people what they wanted they'd have said a faster horse".


First published on Reprinted with permission.