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November 07, 2008

Keeping Clients and Customers: Why not compete on "Ease-of-Use"?

If the following seems like a previous post, you are right. We'll keep publishing a version of it until "Ease-of-Use" as a term of art/catch phrase replaces "Customer Service". WAC? is convinced that "Customer Service" throws people, bores people or renders them straight-up Numb...

What if the Services Sector, now King, competed for clients and customers on the basis of "Ease-of-Use"?

Develop and apply ease-of-use concepts for products and goods to pure services? Our clients' services? Our services? Law. Accounting. Consulting. Advertising. Newer and non-traditional services, too. Anything where a service (something valuable but "invisible") or product-service mix is part of what you pay for. In other words, pretty much Everything these days--and the direction global markets now march, in good and bad times.
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Consider for a moment just products. In 2006, The Folgers Coffee Company was awarded an Ease-of-Use Commendation by the Arthritis Foundation for its AromaSeal™ Canister. If you're a Folgers® drinker, you notice that Folgers® added an easy-to-peel tin freshness seal (no need for a can-opener), a new "snap-tight" lid and even a grip on its plastic red can.

Folgers® did it for coffee cans. IBM and CISCO have ease-of-use programs for the products they sell.

The great companies many of us represent do spend money and expertise on making their goods, equipment and products usable. Think about your car, your luggage, your TV remote (well, strike that one), your watch and even grips on household tools. Think about Apple, Dell and Microsoft. Each year they think through your experience with their products and try to make it better. Continuous improvement models for "things."

Develop and apply ease-of-use concepts to pure services? Our clients' services? Our services? Sure, why not?

It's probably coming anyway, even while it will be infinitely harder to do for services than for products. WAC? has noted before that even corporate clients that sell goods see themselves as selling solutions and not products. In 2004, services sold alone or as support features to the sale of goods and products accounted for over 65% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the US, 50% of the United Kingdom's GDP and 90% of Hong Kong's. Even products sold by IBM and CISCO, now chiefly service companies, are part of a services-products mix in which the services component is the main event.

Law firms, of course, have always sold services. And we are a small but powerful engine in the growth of the services sector. We strategize with and guide big clients every day. While that's all going on--day in and day out--what is it like for the client to work with you and yours? Are clients experiencing a team--or hearing and seeing isolated acts by talented but soul-less techies? Do you make reports and communications short, easy and to the point? Who gets copied openly so clients don't have to guess about who knows what? Is it fun (yeah, we just said "fun") to work with your firm? How are your logistics for client meetings, travel and lodging? Do you make life easier? Or harder? Are you accessible 24/7? In short, aside from the technical aspects of your service (i.e., the client "is safe"), do your clients "feel safe"?

What if law firms--or any other service provider for that matter--"thought through," applied and constantly improved the delivery of our services and how clients really experience them?

And then competed on it...?

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Posted by JD Hull at November 7, 2008 11:59 PM

Comments

Having seen this lovely Folgers can here a few times, I decided to give your "easy of use" suggestion a try.

My client was not at all happy when I pulled on the "easy-to-peel" freshness tab, but she became really irate when I grasped her red can. Talk about a "snap-tight" lid! It was a very ugly scene.

Needless to say, I won't be suggesting that anyone else try this.

Posted by: shg at November 10, 2008 06:06 PM

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