It’s Not That I Don’t Care

Picture of Adam Bahret
Adam Bahret
Screen Shot 2022 08 19 at 10.40.33 AM

There are two types of products in your life. Those you love and the other ones. However, if you were to observe from a distance, you might be surprised which are loved and which are basically seen as only an appliance. This is the Carrera that is going to undergo the alphabet engine project (end of the article has a project update). This car may be my favorite possession and likely has been for a long time. Yet, the casual observer would think I couldn’t give a crap about it. See the rear lid? People tend to ask me if I live on a dirt road; I do not. You are looking at at least three years of built-up pollen and road grime. The rain doesn’t hit the lid under the whale tail so it doesn’t get washed.

Those rims are supposed to be silver. The brake dust builds up fast, a symptom of going through brake pads quickly, cleaning them is futile. There is bird crap on the fender that may very well be from pterodactyl. The best part? Turns out RUST-Oleum gloss black is an exact match for 1979 Porsche black (by my standards). So a quick spray covers chips from rocks, parking lot door dings, and paint that voluntarily retired. This is to mitigate rust, not to be pretty. The mechanics on this car sing; I can tell you in great detail how it is running that day by even the slightest change in sound or feel. The sound from the motor is a concert. I’m extremely confident both sides of congress would agree, proving we are not a truly divided nation.

Many products have customers like me that interact with the product the way THEY want. What I don’t understand is why so many design teams don’t take the time to understand how their customers engage with the products they design. So often teams find out they messed up functionality or reliability or added features that no one asked for. The result is ruining a once great relationship between a customer and a product. Many times, one that took years to create.

I am generally frustrated and disappointed with the 2006 Carrera (UC7 project car with the boat on the roof). Enough that I sold it. The final straw that put it on the auction block was when I noticed a change in engine sound. I scoped the cylinders and saw cylinder liner wear that was premature. I researched it and found out they did a cost reduction initiative a few years earlier that resulted in this issue. I can list a handful of other issues that demonstrate a real “seems good enough ship it” attitude in the design process. I have little love for the newer generations of Carrera because of this.

This is your task: create an initiative before your next product development program. Set out to understand how your products are used and how customers engage with them. What keeps them loyal? Is it the bullet proof reliability, The simplicity of use (new car infotainment interfaces anyone), or how they can count on your brand having the latest technology integrated before anyone else.

What might you find out? Get ready for this. You might find out that you have TOO MUCH reliability. Let that flexibility allow you to integrate tech earlier or a new cost reduction initiative. Or maybe reliability has slipped and that is what is driving the recent market share loss, not being behind in tech, what leadership thinks. The return on this initiative will benefit just about every product factor category, cost point, new features, reliability and time to market. A clear path for improved customer satisfaction and market share growth will likely emerge.

Is all this hard to do? No, it’s not; send someone out into the field. I don’t mean take the customer to lunch. I mean have them rent an apartment for a month near the best field recon location for your product. Maybe that is where service is done, maybe it is where the product is used in an unusual setting. It could even be in-house where returns are received, a goldmine of information that is so often untapped (you have all seen “Undercover Boss”).

It’s a simple investment to make a better product that is developed in a proactive mindset rather than reactive. That makes a big difference.

-Adam

Share this post