Good Enough and Being the Best

The other day I received an e-mail promotion where the person was talking about being “good enough.”  They shared that they had to replace their old food processor, and the new one had all sorts of features that they did not use and that it was very hard to clean.  They didn’t enjoy using it, which was quite frequently, and in a couple of months it had broken.  They then went out and bought a different machine that only had “chop,” “blend,” and “pulse” as features and it was simple to take apart and clean, and it is very durable, allowing it to work consistently on a daily basis over many, many months.  To top it off, it was even less expensive than the fancy machine that only lasted three months.  As they shared this story they said that they loved the second machine and that it was “good enough.”

I have also heard several others talk about this concept of “good enough” in regard to a variety of products, including the revolution of the new video cameras that are simply point, shoot, and upload the video to the internet.  Again, they talk about the simplicity of these products as being “good enough” because they cost less and do less.

I would disagree with their assessment.  I do not see these products as being inferior and just barely satisfying the customer’s needs.  After all, that is what “good enough” really means; just barely satisfactory.  Often just barely satisfactory products are made of inferior components that do not last for a very long time.  But that is not the case of the food processor or the video cameras.  They are well made and perform very well. For millions of people, these products aren’t simply “good enough” but are meeting the needs of the customer extremely well.  For the situations in which these products were created, they are the best solutions to meet the customer’s needs.

I think we need to be careful when we start confusing inferior products and services with those products and services that meet our needs extremely well just because those latter products might cost less, have less features, or only do one or two things.  It usually takes a lot of thought and preparation to provide our customers with the things that are just what they are looking for so that we can delight them.  Rarely does it just happen because we are cutting costs by using inferior materials or by providing less features.

For example, the manufacturer of the food processor would need to know what speeds that their customers usually use (chop, blend, and pulse) before they decided to only provide those speeds.  But what would have happened if they had left off the pulse speed, or perhaps the blend speed?  Obviously it would not meet the needs of many of their customers.  Or what would have happened if they did not take the time to insure that the blender was easy to take apart and clean?  Again, it would have had the same complaints as its fancy predecessor had as being hard to use.  And finally, what if it had only lasted a few months, also like its predecessor?  It would have hardly seemed a bargain at any price if it won’t work as we want it to. 

Being the Best means listening to your customers and giving them what they want and doing it well, even if those products or services are simple to use, have less features, or cost less than their competitors.  How they are manifested in your product or service is up to you to find out from your customers, but here are some things to consider: 

  1. Solution – What ever else the product or service does, it must be a solution to the customers’ needs.  If it is not providing a solution to the customers’ problems or desires, then it will not capture the attention of the customer. 
  2. Simplicity – While customers might want a robust solution to their needs, they never want something that will be hard to figure out to use.  They want to be able to understand it and want to be able to use as few steps as possible.  When things get to be complicated then mistakes can be made, steps forgotten, or things just not work as they were intended.  The more complexity an item has, the more chances are that it will be less reliable or fail entirely. 
  3. Reliability – Customers want things to work as they expect them to work and for the period of time that they expect them to work.  If an item is a single use item, then they expect it to work that one time.  If it is something that they expect to last, then failing after a few times of use is unacceptable. 
  4. Choice – Customers want to have a choice of features or options.  While these might be limited to only a few, they hardly want the old Henry Ford choices of “any color as long as it is black.”  Many of the “smart” phones that are on the market are a good example.  These phones come with some basic features, but a buyer can chose to add on additional applications or not, and if they do then they have thousands of choices of add-on applications that they can download to their phone, making it as robust as they would like so that the phone meets their needs.  On the other hand, just imagine if all of those applications came pre-loaded on your next phone and the problems it might cause in simplicity and reliability.
  5. Value – Customers want what ever product or service that they buy to provide them with value for their investment of either money or time, or both.  If something is extremely valuable to a customer they will pay more for it, especially if it will help them do more or enjoy more.  Value is not always connected with cost, but with how well the product or service meets the above criteria. 

Meeting the above criteria is not easy, and it certainly is not “good enough” no matter how simple the product or service is.  The research, however, is clear that those organizations that know who their customers are, know what they want and give it to them are typically much more successful and sustainable than those organizations that just give their customers “good enough” solutions that are only marginally useful. 

Besides, which would you rather be known for: being just “good enough” or for being “the best” at meeting your customer’s needs, no matter how simple you make it look when you meet those needs?