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The Customer Doesn’t Care About Your Product

The Customer Doesn’t Care About Your Product

Most people look at innovative products with amazement. Throughout history products like the smart phone, personal computer, automobiles, airplanes, iPods, microwave ovens, etc. have been the foundation of profitable new companies. Companies dream of developing such revolutionary products that can capture dominating market shares. But are these products really new? Well, in one sense, no.

Consider the products shown below: the phonograph, tape player, CD player and iPod.

It may be easy to look at these products as different, especially if we focus on the technology employed. In Value Engineering a function is defined as a verb and a noun. A function describes an action. The primary function of the phonograph is to “Play Music”.

When music is played on a phonograph we must rotate the vinyl disk and vibrate the stylus to generate an analog electrical signal that is then amplified. Rotating the disk causes rumble and vibrating the disk produces scratch in the sound and it wears the disk. The turntable is also sensitive to vibration. These are harmful functions or effects that limit the delivery of the primary function. The tape player eliminated these harmful functions, thus improving the delivery of functionality. But the tape player had its own limitations. The signal was still analog and prone to noise and the tape could be stretched or broken. The tape player is also a sequential device in that you must fast forward or rewind to get to a particular song. These limitations are removed in the CD player which has full digital sound and random access to song tracks. The tape player and CD player also have an additional benefit that music could now be portable and taken with you. But you had to carry a large number of tapes or CDs with you and the players were pretty big as well. The iPod eliminates these harmful functions, storing thousands of songs on a device not much bigger than a postage stamp. Steve Jobs once remarked that his vision for the iPod was “a thousand songs in your pocket.”

We can easily see the technology differences among these products, but these don’t really matter to the customer.   The main take away here is that the customer doesn’t care about the thing. They care about the functionality the thing delivers. When a new design eliminates harmful effects that fundamentally limit the delivery of functionality, a paradigm shift occurs. So, instead of focusing on the product or the technology, think about the functionality the consumer gets from the product and what are the harmful effects and contradictions that limit the delivery of functionality.

3 Responses so far.

  1. Jayant D Divey says:

    Peter , I liked your blog and your views are consistent to what you used to speak about when we worked in the same organization. You are correct. The customer only understands how does the product help him. And the functionality keeps on changing and that is what product innovation is all about!

  2. rani says:

    why customer Doesn’t Care About Your Product?

    • admin says:

      As mentioned in the article, the customer cares primarily about the functionality the product delivers. If a different product comes along that does a better job delivering functionality, then the customer will abandon the old product for the new. Better for product developers to focus on how the product works instead of just the physical product.

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