Of Course…

I was inspired today by Christian Lindholm of Fjord Design (via Om Malik). The two were talking about how product design principles might inspire entrepreneurs. Lindholm said:

Most companies are looking to “wow” with their products, when in reality what they should be looking for is an “of course” reaction from their users.

If you really understand your customer and you’re aligned with what they want, shouldn’t they be looking at your offering and saying to themselves “of course”?

  • Hey did you hear the new Google phone is a completely open architecture? Of course it is.
  • Hey, you know my TV was broken on my Jet Blue flight. There wasn’t an open seat, so they gave me a discount voucher for my next ticket! Of course they did.
  • You know, I wanted to go camping on the west coast but I didn’t want to lug my gear. Did you know REI rents camping gear? Of course they do.
  • Man, the shoes from Zappos didn’t fit, but returning them was no hassle at all. Of course it wasn’t.

Each of those examples are actually extremely phenomenal in their own right, but in the context of their brand the acts become expected. It’s some sort of higher order of consumer connection. You only reach that place if you take the time to know your customer, know your market, and really know how to deliver.

That’s not “wow”, that’s thoughtful design, incredible focus, and lots of hard work.

Here’s the thing, organizations lust for “wow” moments because that’s how employees get recognized. Those moments build consensus and momentum. Everyone likes to win, so if you’ve got a “wow” on your hands you’ll have no problem funding people with passion for what you’re building. But little of this “wow” business really has much to do with the customer, it’s an internal (selfish) motivation. “Wow” moments are more about the company winning, the customer is just the means to that victory.

Now I don’t discount the ambition and the intention to amaze and delight your customers, I just think you should push for a more meaningful relationship. Your customer should be able to complete your sentences (and you, theirs). That’s doesn’t mean boring and predictable, it means caring about them more than you care about yourself.

“Wow” moments are actually sort of fleeting and superficial. “Wow” is a summer blockbuster movie that makes a mint in 3 weeks and is on DVD by Christmas. “Wow” is a big buzz at the CES convention in January and lackluster sales in the fall. You didn’t want that, right? Of course you don’t.

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