When You Should Never Listen to Your Customers - Page 2

Rob Enderle


Where Customer Focus Does Work


Clearly, you need to understand your customers and keep them top of mind or your customer churn will be painful. Mark does point this out. If there is something in a product your customers really want, you'd better get it and protect it, otherwise, you'll find they will go someplace else. In short, while customer input might have actually been counterproductive for the iPad, it will be critical to keeping customers on this product and preventing competitive erosion. But you just have to keep them happy. Customers tend not to move very easily and once hooked, they are hard to move. Companies like Apple and EMC have demonstrated this for years.


Competitive Analysis


Mark also brings up a problem with competitive analysis: Putting too much effort into responding to competitive moves and not stepping away from the pack. Apple did this right with the iPod, Microsoft badly with Plays for Sure by creating Zune. The best example, however, was GM in the 70s. It had one of the best competitive analysis groups in the world and could tell you down to decimals exactly what it took to build a competing car like a Toyota. However, it would feed that into the design process, which took five years, which was why products like the Chevy Vega were more similar to 1960s-era Toyotas and why Toyota kicked its butt in the 70s. You don't win races by focusing excessively on the folks in front of you or behind you. You win by focusing on the finish line.


Wrapping Up: Customers Are and Aren't Important


In the creation of a new product, customers can be more distraction than help because they live in a world different from what will exist when a future product is created. However, once the product is out, their satisfaction and loyalty are critical to your ability to maintain low enough costs and manageable customer churn.


Sony is a company that has nearly forgotten what it means to maintain customer loyalty, and it has paid a painful price for that over the last decade. Sun was even more tragic. Remembering what customers are best at, being customers, and leveraging them while doing what Cuban suggests and focusing on your own product innovation and name selection work can go a long way to assuring your firm's long-term success. Yes, I know it is incredibly hard to do this. The most successful way to predict the future is to invent it.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 9, 2010 12:50 PM a. asdf a. asdf  says:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the Apple tablet was born out of user requests. I remember Apple fans wanting a tablet before there were rumors Apple was going to even make one. From 2007;


And that's exactly what an iPad should have looked like.

Apr 10, 2010 10:23 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to a. asdf

And that is exactly not what they built.   Apple builds on their own agenda not on customer spec.   The iPad is a very different product, one that is more appliance than PC.  Users were asking for an Mac, they got an iPod. 

Apr 10, 2010 12:49 PM a. asdf a. asdf  says: in response to Rob Enderle

That's exactly what they should have built. If people had a choice between iPad and iMacPad, no one would have bought the iPad for the same price. The HP Slate already proves they could have made an iMacPad for around the same price. There's no reason why you can't put OSX on the HP Slate.

They only reason I see besides battery life for building an iPodPad is for the 50%+ profit margins. Wrapping up, Apple should have just gone into the car business and made an iCar.


Apr 11, 2010 12:37 PM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to a. asdf

But the point is that isn't how they do it and they have PC margins that HP would love to share.   Want to bet which company sells more tablets?   But I think you'll need to look at the 3rd or 4th generation product.   The iPad is clearly a work in progress at this point.


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