… or what a can opener can teach you about understanding the customer
The canning of foods was a novel and highly useful invention developed in the late 1790′s, prodded forward by a French military contest to develop a safe method for preserving and transporting food. One of the large constraints on military campaigns at that time was that the starting of wars was typically limited to the summer months as that was when food was most plentiful.
The military contest awarded the sum of 12,000 francs to Nicolas Appert, an inventor who discovered that food cooked inside a jar did not spoil until the seal was broken. Thus the canning industry and canned food was born. Over the next few decades, the processes became perfected, and canned foods became essential in military campaigns and in such expeditions as to the north and south poles. Eventually canned food rose to become a high status item in the pantries of many European households.
The strategy lesson in this story lies in the TCE, or Total Customer Experience. Although canning was invented in the 1790′s, the can opener WAS NOT invented until 1855 – a full 60 years later!! Until that time, customers relied on knives, bayonets, and other sharp instruments to remove the lids from the can, sometimes injuring themselves in the process. Relief came when Robert Yeates invented the lever type can opener that greatly eased the customer experience of getting to the contents of the can. It would be another 50 years before the double wheel design that we know today came into being.
Too often, businesses focus entirely on perfecting the product at the expense of understanding the Total Customer Experience SURROUNDING the product. Things like:
- How it is purchased?
- In what quantities? (packaging)
- What it is used for?
- How it is prepared?
- How it is transported?
- How it is stored?
Items such as these are often sources for angst among your customers and allow great opportunity for you to differentiate.
In a previous post, we used the example of Apple’s entry into the crowded mp3 player market in 2001. By itself, the iPod is just another music device, but with a PROPRIETARY integration into the iTunes ecosystem, the Total Customer Experience is transformed. Browse, select, buy, play, organize all in one system. Other mp3 manufacturers are going to have a tough time breaching this moat. And the more tunes the customer buys, the more playlists they create, the deeper and wider that moat becomes.By understanding the elements of the Total Customer Experience, entirely new opportunities for your business will open up.