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Design to Sell

It may seem a simple task to determine when consumers really like the products built from the widgets your company builds or the services it offers. These days, companies design and post a Facebook or Google+ business page supported by promotions or campaigns and hope the pages start clicking with Likes.

But even before considering the Facebook Like button (which tells others how an individual feels about a given product or brand), manufacturers need to consider the function of the product, accessibility to the company, and the emotional experience customers associate with each. Start by aligning the company's manufacturing strategy with customer service and sales. This can shed insight on customer acquisitions and revenue potential.

A study by the Temkin Group analyzed customer feedback based on functional (the ability to accomplish tasks easily), accessible (the ability to interact with the company), and emotional (warm and cozy feelings gained from interactions) experiences. The study, which drew feedback from about 800 IT professionals from large companies, attempted to connect customer experience with revenue growth.

Through the study, Temkin created Experience Ratings for 60 large suppliers. The average scores for each vendor were, well, average — 59 percent for functional, 62 percent for accessible, and (most interestingly) 45 percent for emotional.

Microsoft, Intel, and IBM got some of the highest emotional scores, while Autodesk, WiPro, ACS, CGI, and Compuware got the lowest.

These experiences tie directly to revenue, according to Temkin. It may seem obvious, but many companies don't seem to realize the importance of designing products in a way that gives the customer a unique user experience.

{complink 3426|Microsoft Corp.}, for example, maintains consistency in its product interfaces. Someone using Microsoft Word can likely figure out, with little delay, how to use Microsoft Excel or Microsoft PowerPoint. Those using an earlier Microsoft operating system will notice that the makers of Windows 8 followed the same ideology. The Redmond, Wash., company took its format for the small-screen smartphone and adapted it for tablets and desktops to give users a continuous experience.

The Temkin study, which focuses on experience, makes it easy to see how a better customer experience can accelerate purchase momentum for a specific company. Answers from survey participants were used to develop “purchase momentum scores,” defined as the percentage of companies planning to spend more with the vendor minus the percentage planning to spend less. Temkin found that companies with better customer experience had higher purchase momentum.

A few companies bucked the trend. Companies with higher purchase momentum than their customer experience would suggest include {complink 10296|Software AG} (49 percent experience rating, 29 percent purchase momentum), Terradata (57 percent experience rating, 36 percent purchase momentum) and {complink 4789|SAS Institute Inc.} (59 percent experience rating, 42 percent purchase momentum). Compare this with Hewlett-Packard, whose purchase momentum (18 percent) is lower than its experience rating (67 percent) would suggest.

SAS Institute and {complink 379|Apple Inc.} had the highest purchase momentum (42 percent), followed by {complink 1131|Cisco Systems Inc.} (39 percent) and Microsoft (37 percent). Compuware (negative-4 percent) and Alcatel-Lucent (6 percent) had the lowest purchase momentum.

Consistency and better service aren't the only threads feeding through functional, accessible, and emotional experiences that can lead to customer acquisitions. Getting customers to like or even love a company's products and services starts with listening to the customer, as Dan Trojacek tells us in his blog. His strategy aligns manufacturing with sales objectives.

4 comments on “Design to Sell

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 6, 2012

    Interesting data. The ability to tie design to revenue is pretty cool. As to the other categories, aren't interaction and the warm-fuzzies other names for customer service? Whether the actual contact with the supplier is online, phone or in person, the impression overall depends on how an inquiry/question/complaint/return is handled. My suspicion is like Apple, many of the high-scorers in this matrix still handle their customer interaction directly, as opposed to outsourcing service and support. I believe Microsoft also does this, although you usually have to go through layers of other companies before you  determine you actually have a software problem.

  2. Laurie Sullivan
    February 6, 2012

    Thanks Barbara. It seems so simple — design the product experience around the customer — but I found it really interesting that often times companies don't take “experience” into consideration when designing a product or service. How many electronics have you bought from companies in which you do not like the company's culture, which influences product design?  

  3. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 6, 2012

    Excellent question. I am all over the map on that one. I am usually price and brand driven. I bought a ceramic-topped stove made by a leading brand because I thought the design was better, but I hate cooking with it and cleaning it. I have actually been baffled by Apple's lack of buttons on iPods. Now that I think of it, I'm probably one of the reasons researchers exist: you really can't predict what a consumer will like, but you'll sure as heck give it your best shot!

  4. Ariella
    February 7, 2012

    One company that absolutely excels at the warm and fuzzy aspect is Zappos. I just read Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of the company that was recently acquired by Amazon. He goes into detail about the company culture and the commitment to regularly “WOW: customers and other business partners. It's not a matter of the widgets, for they don't manufacture the shoes and other items they sell. It's all about the experience of dealing with Zappos.

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