Even with the latest and greatest technology, some companies are finding themselves outdated and losing customers. Contrary to popular belief, even the snazziest features and coolest components can’t make up for companies whose process fundamentally doesn’t understand the consumer. Lenovo might be one of them. What about your company?
There comes a point when it’s simply not about your stuff. You might have the most “advanced” product or service. Your features may be “ultra” everything. And you might even have had some satisfied customers in the past. But when it comes to attracting and closing deals with new consumers, if you don’t understand what makes them choose one company over another, you’re sunk. Even cutting your price won’t make up for a process that runs completely opposite to the way the modern customer lives his life.
Lenovo is just another example in the long line of companies today that don’t understand their customer.
The modern consumer – let’s call him Gen X, because he’s entering his prime earning years – is all about speed. He expects the world to react fast to his desires. If he gets a cold, he wants medicine that clears it up overnight. If he needs an oil change, he wants it done in ten minutes or less, drive-through, without having to leave his car. If he wants to check the status of a flight, he actually expects the airline to be updating him by text – before he has to make a call or connect to the web.
For the modern consumer, the key principle is speed.
Other factors are still important. Gen X wants style. He likes his products and services to stand out and make him noticed. Sleekest, fastest, coolest, even most expensive: these desires drive the purchase decisions of the modern consumer. As George Carlin used to say, “he can upload a gigabyte in a nanosecond.” So why would he possibly wait hours, days or weeks to be satisfied after he makes his purchase?
When he completes his research, he’s ready to go. If the car is not in stock, he won’t wait for the next shipment a few weeks from now. He expects options: Can you get the car from a dealer 100 miles away? Good; Make it so. If not, he’s ready to move to another dealer – whose model is on-par – but whose inventory is ready to satisfy. The same holds true for all of modern man’s purchases: if it’s not in stock, if you can’t deliver today or tomorrow, if I can’t get an appointment for a month, then I’m moving on. With a “13 million search results” mentality, Gen X consumers expect options and results. Companies that cannot keep up are left behind.
Satisfaction is irrelevant to the modern consumer. He cares not a wit that his last use of your service was highly satisfying – if his current attempt to consume it is fraught with frustration. No matter how much he liked your last model – or how many times he loyally bought again – if you put roadblocks in his way today, he’s gone.
Case in point: I have owned four IBM Thinkpads in a row. All were top of the line, far more expensive than I probably should have paid – especially in comparison to aggressive competitors like DELL or Toshiba. But my Thinkpad was awesome: rugged (dropped it many times), fast (all the goodies under the hood) and always made me look good (oh, you have a Thinkpad! my friends would say). I even consider myself a very brand loyal customer. Four in a row means that for the last six or seven years, there’s been a Thinkpad in my briefcase, on my podium, in the plane and even on the beach with me. No company can ask for a better customer.
Today, I’m about to stop being a Lenovo customer. Not because their stuff isn’t awesome – it’s more incredible than ever. As a Gen X’er you can expect I did my research: I compared, contrasted, reviewed, watched video, read opinions. In fact, I was doing so much research that my staff finally had to do an “intervention” and force me to type in my credit card and place the order. Ok, so I wanted the best – and I fully expected my next Thinkpad to deliver it – as it had always done in the past.
Except that it’s been a month, and my Thinkpad hasn’t been delivered yet.
Talk about losing your customer. Obviously, Lenovo doesn’t understand the modern consumer. Maybe they think I’m a Baby Boomer, who was content to “allow two to four weeks for shipping” back in the 1980s. But even the Boomers got tired of that, and forced companies to offer rush delivery, and created FedEx to make it happen. Maybe Lenovo thinks they can parlay my satisfaction with their past products – admittedly I’m writing this on a two year old Thinkpad – into tolerance for delays “in the supply chain.” As if I really care about how dysfunctional their suppliers and production process is?
Originally, the ship date when I ordered was about two weeks. Lenovo even made the faux-pas of shipping me my accessories – an extra power cord and a docking station – within a few days. Big mistake! I’ve had two reminders that my laptop still hasn’t arrived sitting on my desk for the past three weeks. If you can’t satisfy the customer, at least don’t keep reminding him about it every day. Last week the shipping date moved to the end of this month; today it moved forward again. Both times I called to find out why. Both times I was essentially told that Lenovo just couldn’t deliver on their promises – made at the time they accepted my credit card transaction.
Waiting just isn’t an option for the modern consumer. Some readers might think this is petty; didn’t they have to wait in breadlines or something way back when? That was then. And Lenovo – and other companies – need to deal with the here and now. These days, we download music instantly. We watch movies on-demand. We hear from our friends and trusted business vendors instantly by social media stream. If we could beam down to our local Starbucks, you bet we’d have the transporter by now. Stoplights are for sissies.
There’s an important lesson here for companies: Whether you’re massive Lenovo or the local real estate company, the modern consumer wants more than just “good stuff.” In fact, they take it for granted that your stuff is the best, or they wouldn’t even be talking to you. The best marketing, the most skilled professionals, the greatest knowledge and experience to solve their problems and satisfy their desires. But if your supply chain sucks – if you can’t deliver what you promise – then you’re going to lose their business. Gen X doesn’t care that your website gets a lot of traffic, if your salespeople are throwing away the buyer leads (because they didn’t call you back) that could have purchased their home. Gen X expects you to upload their listings overnight to 20+ web destinations: but if your MLS system won’t support a few dozen photos and a good quality video, they won’t blame your supply chain. They will blame you. When Gen X makes an offer, they don’t care that the “other agent” hasn’t returned your call yet; if your industry hasn’t figured out how to communicate by text, they’ll hold you accountable.
Gen X can write a blog telling the world what they think of your service within minutes. And the world won’t blame your supply chain. They’ll simply think, Yet another company who just does not understand the modern consumer.
P.S. And if you think Gen X is impatient, unfair, intolerable and demanding, just wait until his Gen Y siblings try to order their first laptop – or home – online……..