I’ll start this story by telling you I am not an engineer and I have little patience for wires and boxes. But I always try to fix things myself rather than take them to someone else. I’m not inept, but I am impatient.
About ten years ago I took it upon myself to add more memory to the home computer. It was a Dell desktop running Windows 98. It wasn’t hard to take the metal casing off, locate the memory slot and snap the new memory card into the chassis. But I ran into trouble when it came to putting it back together. The screws holding the case to the frame were very small and I could not rethread them. Looking at all the other screws in the chassis, I could see they were all very, very short. Only a machine could precisely drive those itty-bitty screws into place. Fumble-fingered John could not.
Oh, were there a lot of blue words from yours truly! An hour later I gave up and duct-taped everything together.
Dell made those short screws to cut cost. They were barely adequate enough to hold the computer together and ship it to the customer. If they were just a few millimeters longer I could have finished my project in ten minutes. Calling Dell, I was told I could ship it back to them for reassembly (at significant cost to me). Bah! I used 3M Duct tape to affix the case as best as I could. Next year, I bought a new computer, an Apple eMac, swearing to never buy another Dell product again.
That old eMac survived two teenaged boys and is still working today. No problems in all the years I have had it. In fact, I’m composing this blog on it, now.
There are so many problems when you optimize right up to a line. A min-max way of thinking may be a short-term approach that stymies a bigger picture. ‘Good’ customers are repeat buyers who recommend your products. They don’t buy again if you offend them. “Of course,” you say, you don’t want to infuriate your customers. But what about the other people you serve in your lives? Your friends? Your co-workers? Your corporate clients? Minimalizing their needs is really marginalization. Like customers, they take note, and also like customers, refuse to ‘purchase’ from you again. They will bypass you and subvert your relationship.
Seth Godin blogged about this last week. Titled “The Least I Could Do,” he argues “what’s the most you could do” is a cheap and effective marketing technique.
Perhaps it’s an effective relationship technique, too?