Matt Gornick

Customers hate surprises

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on December 23, 2010

Law 1: Tell your customer what you're going to tell them.

Law 2: Tell them.

Law 3: Then tell them what you told them.

Today I went to the barbershop for a quick trim for the holidays.  My hair wasn't long, but just needed to get cleaned up.  I told the barber to take just a touch off the length and trim me up.  He smiled, agreed, spun me around (away from the mirror), and proceeded to cut my hair in complete silence… not a word.  20 minutes later, he spun me back around and I promptly figured out that this wasn't want I asked for.  He tried his best to correct the butchery of a haircut, but as the ancient proverb goes "measure twice, cut once".  There was nothing he could do to fix the haircut.

This is an important lesson because it is a perfect example of what businesses do and try to meet customer demands and expectations.  All too often, you are on the phone with a supplier/vendor/sales person and they can barely contain their excitement to get going, install software, and sell you hardware without truly understanding your needs.  There is a disconnect between what they want to sell and what I want because they aren't communicating with me.  

Going back to my haircut, the barber should be constantly communicating with its customers.  "Trim here, hows that length? Did you see the game last night?"  Without communication, even a seasoned expert can deliver something completely unexpected and unwanted to the client.  Obviously, unexpected and unwanted results are the last thing a paying customer has in mind.

Even Apple Computer who is known for secrecy, telling the customer what they need, and surprising everyone also plays by these laws although a bit differently.  First, they do an insane amount of research (read: listening) to determine what people's problems are with technology.  People are "communicating to" Apple and Apple is doing a great job at listening.  Before a product launch, there will be banners, rumors, faux product pictures, etc. but these are likely setting up the expectation of what they Apple will tell us (Law 1).  The anticipation leading up to the launch brings us to Law 2, where Steve actually tells us they are releasing an iPhone/iPad/etc.  Law 3 is the rest of his talk where he basically makes everyone on earth want to purchase this new gadget.  Law 3 is subsequently reinforced by other people (media, friends, etc) telling you what Steve already told you (e.g. "you need to by an iPhone because it is the greatest achievement bestowed upon mankind").

That being said, we need to either be more strategic (like Apple) or more active when communication and listening to customers and their needs.  Communicate early and often.

Happy Holidays!