29 February 2012

Give them what they need, not what they want

Some years ago I produced a delivery map for work. The map was glorious and communicated what days we delivered where, how often we delivered there and the price that we charged for the delivery. The map was a critical part of selling delivery to our customers and allowing the salespeople to correctly communicate delivery expectations to their customers. 

A few years after releasing the map, we upgraded our systems to an automated routing system that would control the delivery schedule and charges based on the Zip Code on the sale. I stopped updating the map because it was inaccurate compared to the upgraded system in that it allowed for the personal interpretation of the schedule and delivery charge for the borderline cities, interpretations that would not match up with the system’s automated schedule and charges. Additionally, the map was built using old graphic software and we would need to spend several hundred to purchase new software and spend several hours to rebuild the map.

Just a few months after I retracted the map I was hit with a request to update it. The salespeople wanted to be able to quote, with some confidence, when we could deliver out to a customer’s home and how much it would cost before running a complete sale. I cited my reasons and denied the request. Another request came a few months later, again I denied it. Finally, the owner of the company requested a revised map. I explained my reasons and he went back to the Store Managers only to come back to me and say, “Daniel, they want the map. Make it happen.”

I fought the request: it would be expensive and would surely lead to several upset customers and salespeople. Then it struck me: they did not want a map (that was all they knew); they wanted to be able to easily know when we go where and how much it would cost. I proposed an easy to maintain spreadsheet and was greeted with an overwhelming response in the affirmative. In fact, the salespeople preferred the spreadsheet over the map.

This provided a valuable lesson to me: give them what they need, not what they want because often they do not know what they really want, they just know what they had.

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