Or how to lose clients by delivering them lousy solutions.
Hello, thanks for reading. My name is Sergio Flores and I’m the Lead Consultant at SAFT.Industries, where we do tech strategy and implementations for startups and small business.
Today I felt it’d be appropriate to share with you a small (true!) story that it seemed to me it pretty much reflects the problem with otherwise good companies, good products and good software solutions.
You see, I’m a gym-goer, so I have subscription to a gym, naturally. And, in this one gym, it happened once, that when it was designed, I mean, when the physical space was setup for it to become a gym, somebody decided that lockers were necessary, and so they purchased and installed several lockers throughout the place.
Now, these lockers, they use a key, and are meant for temporary use, just while the clients are, actually, inside the premises. At first everything was going fantastic, but then, after a while, as the gym got more popular and newer members started coming in, well, not all of them were so conscientious in returning their locker keys when leaving, and … keys began to get lost.
At that point, the management decided it was a small loss, so they absorbed it and just bought new keys, but unfortunately, the issue kept occurring, and it became a nuisance and an extra expense for them, so the need to take action became clear.
From that point onward, all customers would have to leave their membership card to get a key; the idea being that, if you forgot to return your key, the staff would know who you were and could remind you (or charge you for it). And what happened was, people had to get membership id’s issued, because they didn’t have them before, since they were not really needed, and, it had to be implemented quickly so, the gym bought the first useable cards they found for the clients, not so cool cards, really, and a bit more expensive than management would have preferred, but anyway, problem solved, right?
Well. The gym had paid some extra money for the cards, but to the users they looked super simple and super cheap, so clients began loosing them now; in addition to the locker keys. So, the manager, now a bit exasperated, sent an announcement warning everybody that a replacement membership card would carry a fee. One user, who had never lost a key, but lost his card, complained about what it seemed like an exorbitant fee for a super cheap looking piece of cardboard.
Other users followed. “Why do we have to pay for membership cards?,” they said. “Don’t we already pay a membership monthly fee, that should include the cards…if needed?” The manager found a bit of difficulty to counter that rationale, but wasn’t feeling much in the mood to suffer the constant need to replace both cards and keys, so he came up with an idea! How about if your card gave you discounts at restaurants and sports shops and whatnot, included in your membership? (and your card issuance).
Unfortunately, nobody explained to him that one goes to a gym to get fit, not to get discounts at Chili’s. So from his point of view, the lack of engagement from the gym’s clients was a mystery, as well as the lack of cash flow…
How about if your card gave you discounts at restaurants and sports shops and whatnot, included in your membership? (and your card issuance).
Unfortunately, nobody explained to the manager that one goes to a gym to get fit, not to get discounts at Chili’s.
Stop right there.
Obviously, the manager didn’t have his customers needs first and foremost in his mind, but his own; how annoying was to replace the keys, how bothersome and expensive…and not for a single moment he thought on how to improve the experience for the customer. I’m sure you know there was a better solution, but the manager didn’t consider it:
Replace the key-based lockers for combination-based ones.
Now, the point I want to make is this: Good design means identifying errors in the original design and ruthlessly eliminating them. Good design means accepting that if we need to rebuild the thing, we’ll rebuild the thing. It means, that if we have found a problem with our approach, we’ll re-design our solution to address the issue adequately. It means we will not attempt to cover a design error with “workarounds” that increase the overall complexity of the system and introduce extra “features” to cover for an original weakness. No.
Good design it’s re-design. And furthermore, it’s re-design with the customer’s well being in mind.
Have a great week everybody! And please do get in touch if you happen to need a little help (or a lot!) with your company’s Tech. You can find me on LinkedIn: