January 31, 2013

The customer isn't always right - and why that's a good thing

You hear it everywhere you go - "the customer is always right". And when you take time to put the comment into different contexts, it can be construed in a number of ways. But with the rapid evolution of 3D design and printing technology, in the context of design and engineering processes, this statement is entirely untrue.

Take food as an example. I was watching a show on the Travel Channel called "Chowdown Countdown" a couple of days ago. It featured their list of the top 100 restaurants in America, and among them was a place in Chicago called "Superdawg". Their specialty is, you guessed it - hot dogs, and their business is world renowned. But forget asking for modifications, or ketchup - the Superdawg staff will promptly tell you no. The owners are proud of their creation, and insist that any changes would ruin the Superdawg.

The world famous Superdawg, served with all the trimmings - golden mustard, tangy piccalilli, kosher dill pickle, chopped Spanish onions and a memorable hot pepper - but NO KETCHUP!

Another restaurant on the show, Grimaldi's Pizzeria (located in Brooklyn) routinely has customers lined up around the block for their authentic pies. But prominently displayed on the front door is a sign saying "NO SLICES". You get an entire pizza, or nothing.

So how do the behaviors of restaurants relate to 3D design? Customers call in asking for AutoCAD on a daily basis, and when asked to go with industry specific solutions like Inventor or Revit, insist that they know best how to get their work done. Meanwhile, their competitors leapfrog ahead of them, shortening development cycles, creating more innovative products, and most importantly, taking market share.

Our role as consultants is to stay up to date on new technology, observe the practices of "Best in Class" manufacturers, and challenge our clients to evolve their "tried and true" workflows. Encouraging clients to become early adopters of software and processes that will satisfy current design needs, but sustain their business for the rapidly changing future is a responsibility that any account manager/consultant should hold as paramount.

And along with being the differentiator between a salesperson and a business partner, it's also why I contend once again, that the customer isn't always right - and clients who "get it" will agree that, like the yummy Superdawg, it's quite a good thing.

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