Dec 6 2009
“There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.” – Joshua Reynolds
When a baby bird gets hungry, it stares up at its mom expectantly, beak opened wide, and begins chirping incessantly until it has been fed. The baby is either unable or unwilling to go out and retrieve food for itself. Why do all the hard work when someone else can do it for you?
When customers are faced with a challenge — a gap in their knowledge, a website that’s not intuitive to navigate, a set up process that’s too complex to get through, etc. — they quickly resort to the state of a baby bird. Suddenly, they’ve been made to feel inadequate. They get frustrated and become unwilling / unable to move on.
“Why isn’t this easier?”
“Can’t someone just do this for me?”
“Ah, forget it!”
You have two options when this happens:
- Screw ‘em. Also known as “The Microsoft Approach.” You’ve got them locked into your business, right? They bought your stuff, and you got what you wanted. If they can’t fill in the gaps, they must just be stupid.
- Spoon-feed ‘em. Accept that whatever they’re complaining about is probably your fault, and go out of your way to fix the problem.
The duty of your company is to make it painless for your “baby birds” to eat. More often than not, that requires you to spoon-feed them. It may take more effort on your part, but it keeps your customers happy.
An interesting example of a company that spoon-feeds their customers is Ted’s Montana Grill. At any other restaurant, the bill would come at the end of the meal, with the sum total of everyone’s meals, and the entire group would struggle to calculate how much each of them owed. Cash is exchanged, tip calculators are whipped out, and there’s always that one jerk (me) who only has a credit card. Figuring out how to split the bill is an ordeal. At Ted’s, it isn’t.
A $75 bill, nicely divided into four sections showing what each person ordered and how much it cost. You know exactly how much you owe without having to think about it or argue with your friends. As Larry David said, no one wants to do math after eating a meal. Ted took that to heart.
It might seem fairly trivial to do something like this. There’s no impact on the bottom line. But it’s an unexpected surprise, and it leaves your customers feeling happy. Spoon-feeding them this kind of information might be a bit harder on you, but it’s better for your company to take on some pain than to pass it on to the people who buy from you.
Never underestimate how much people desire to be spoon-fed.