What do customers want anyway?: A review of “The 8 Dimensions of Excellence” (Part 2)

(This post is the second and final in a two-part review of the Baldrige article “The 8 Dimensions of Excellence”.)

productionlinegraphicIt’s a common belief, borne out by experience, that no business is successful without some sort of planning. It may come in the form of a business plan or an outline or a list of goals. Whatever the form, some planning needs to be completed or else the business may never reach its potential or it may fail altogether.

Baldrige article author,  Robin Lawton, undertakes this issue and several other related ones in the second half of “The 8 Dimensions of Excellence”.

Lawton’s next and last four (4) dimensions are the following:

  1. Producer-desired outcomes
  2. Undesired outcomes producers want to avoid or eliminate
  3. Product characteristic producers want
  4. Process characteristics producers want

Microsoft didn’t just come together. It had to create a strategic business plan and then position itself in the marketplace. This plan, as Lawton states, includes market share, profitability, competitiveness and share price.

If it worked for a multi-billion-dollar-company like that, why can’t it work for you, “the little guy” just trying to increase sales in the marketplace?  When you finish with your plan, ask yourself the most important question: How well do my goals align with my customers’ desires?

It’s a good question which is answered with a look back in the “What-were-we-thinking?” section of American business history. The most infamous recent business example is the “New Coke”. I was just a kid when the Coca Cola Company came out in the mid-80s with a grand new recipe’ for its iconic drink but I remember it like it was yesterday as I was an avid consumer of it.

Soon after its mega-hyped introduction outside The Statue of Liberty, the “New Coke” was panned by the news media and rejected by its devoted customers (even though it did experience an brief uptick in sales on the East Coast.) The company had badly underestimated the rejection of the reformulated by the soft drink’s loyal fans. As sales were dropping. late night comedian, Johnny Carson, made it the butt of his nightly routines and the term “New Coke” became a term know known synonymously for “failure”.

Three months after its introduction, the “New Coke” was pulled from its shelves and “Coke Classic”, the new name for the beloved old product, was reintroduced and the furor died a quick death. Its customers were mollified and an embarrassing moment in marketing history ended.

Coca Cola’s marketing executives made a costly error in not aligning its corporate goals with its customers’ goals and paid dearly for it. Does your business truly need a “New {insert your most popular product here}” or do you just need to re-market your “classic product” better?

While, these undesired outcomes briefly hurt Coca Cola, it had the market segment, customer base and capitol reserves to sustain the losses. You, as a small businessperson, may not have such a luxury. As Lawton states:

                            Undesired outcomes are often defined and measured.
                            You can be sure your local fire department measures the number of                             extinguished fires per month and possibly the dollar value of damage
                            sustained. Contrast that with the desired outcome—
                            fire-free days—and the likelihood that statistic is measured.

So what product characteristics do customers want? Surprisingly, it’s pretty simple: Customers want, according to the author, products that are:

  1. easy to build
  2. cheap to produce
  3. cost-free to maintain
  4. easy to distribute
  5. one-size-that-fits-all
  6. can’t be easily copied by a competitor 

Using those six product characteristics as a baseline for success is easy to memorize,  attractive to place in a gold frame and to hang on a wall in your office, but there is more to it than that. In his final dimension, Lawton stresses several more important points in one final list titled “process characteristics”:

  1. low-process variation
  2. high productivity
  3. short cycle time
  4. high flexibility
  5. low unit cost

All of these points deserve paragraphs of their own but I’m running out of space. So, let’s just say that, for brevity’s sake, you take the author’s guide to business product success to heart, where would it take you? Only your monthly income statements will answer that question.

However, Robin Lawton’s “8 Dimensions of Excellence” does give you a detailed blueprint to reach excellence in positioning your product in the marketplace. Sure, business history has had a few “New Cokes” but it has had many more shining examples of successes such as Apple iPads, McDonald’s Big Macs and Ford Mustangs.

When you dig through all the lists in this article, choose one (or more) that works for your business. Then, find a picture frame or computer app and post one of them as a guide for you and your employees to see if your profit margins increase this new year.

Because, after all, if you can’t meet your customers’ expectations of excellence, what do you have left?

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About Owner and CEO, Philip Day Communications

I'm a professional copywriter, blogger, voiceover artist and CEO of Philip Day Communications. (www.PhilipDayCommunications.com). My experience in public relations, writing, non-profit management and broadcasting gives me a unique perspective on business, charities and media. Plus, I just enjoy writing, broadcasting and people!
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2 Responses to What do customers want anyway?: A review of “The 8 Dimensions of Excellence” (Part 2)

  1. BrianL says:

    Well done. Love the New Coke example. 🙂

    • Thanks, Brian. I remember it well when The Coca-Cola Company came out with its New Coke. Ironically, I liked the new recipe’. It wasn’t quite as edgy as the old Coke. But, a lot of people didn’t like it, obviously. It just goes to show you that you better be careful before you change your product.

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