Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Keeping up with the customer

One of the most common causes of business failure is failing to keep up with changes in the market and more specifically not keeping up with what customers want.

I read a great article this week in the Wall St Journal on the fall of Nokia.It charts the rise and fall of Nokia and the now well known story of how the development of Smartphones led to the demise of Nokia. Nokia's share price has fallen over 90% since 2000. Nokia is not alone, RIM, the makers of Blackberry have suffered a similar fall in share price.

The thing that intrigued me most in the article was how Nokia reviewed the iPhone and felt it was inferior to their own products. They felt:

  • it was more expensive to manufacture and hence would cost customers too much
  • it operated at the time on older 2G technologies while Nokia phones operated on 3G networks
  • it failed their drop tests, which involved the phone being dropped five feet on to a concrete floor

Nokia was correct in all these observations but what they failed to appreciate was that people really wanted to do more than just make calls and text on their phones, that people would pay more for such mobile devices and failing the drop test was less important to customers than they imagined. Thus it is a text book case of failing to understand what customers wanted.

I think we can learn many lessons in the elearning industry. For example, the best selling authoring tools are not the best engineered or ones that can produce the most sophisticated learning but those that are low cost and easy to use.

It is why we will see responsive elearning designs win out over apps in delivery to multiple devices. An app may provide a slightly better learning experience but the complexities and cost of developing, maintaining and tracking multiple versions for multiple devices is unlikely to win favour with customers. In this case, in my personal view, the simplicity of one version that works everywhere is what the customer wants.

Nokia were right though about that drop test, as I found out when I dropped my iPhone recently.:-(