Marketing and Product Development Essentials

Fluke Tour May 6One more note from my visit with Fluke last week. The first day of meetings was devoted to a conversation/focus group with a number of customers, partners and “bloggers” (me).

Voice of Customer

We were introduced to the product development process for its latest vibration-sensing tool. Their process is iterative—discovering problems customers have, watching how people actually do things now, coming up with ideas for solutions, returning to the customers for feedback, then iterating again until the final product is released.

This “Voice of the Customer” is sacred within the company.

Fluke uses a technique called shadowing where Fluke team members follow a customer technician around and record how he/she uses the tool. They notice things like awkward angles or how they play with control buttons with their thumbs.

I’ve talked with another company in the past that sends all members of the executive team out annually to shadow a customer. It helps them see customer successes and feel customer’s pain. That was a great idea.

I’d suggest that Fluke take its shadowing methodology and expand it from development of a specific tool into a routine for senior managers as a way to get ideas and get a feel for the customers.

Otherwise, speaking as a guy with some product development experience, I like what I see.

Not every company is as sensitive to customers as Fluke.

Coffee Blunder

I’m a coffee fanatic. I buy Fair Trade beans and have invested in a coffee shop that will source beans directly from farmers that our buyer has met. In a past life, I was a volunteer coordinator for an organization called Bread for the World. I studied the impact of corporate farms in developing nations.

I say that to explain my passion for a good cup of coffee. Keurig cup-at-a-time coffee makers have swept the nation in popularity. The company also invented and patented K-cups—the single use coffee container. But, I buy my own beans. I’d rather do that than be captive to whatever companies pay Keurig for the opportunity to sell through its distribution. So, I use the reusable metal mesh filter cup.

The K-cups are wasteful, add another layer of distribution waste and expense, driving down the revenue to the farmer.

They are also more expensive to the customer. Whenever technology and marketing come together, it seems that customer lock-in is the result.

Keurig decided to add a sensor, just like the ink jet printer people, that senses the presence of “official” K cups in its latest Keurig 2 machines. This is, of course, to force people to buy coffee only from them.

Sales dropped. The CEO last week said that evidently customers didn’t like that idea. “They like to buy their own beans.” Duh! A little bit of sensitivity to customers would have told them that.

Takeaway

Take a lesson from this tale of two companies. Be more like Fluke (and in the spirit of competition improve on its system). Don’t be the other “Rob Lowe”.

 

And if you are asked to participate, please do. Your experience will help the entire industry improve.

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