We never seem to be too far away from an innovation in the technology world and I’m not embarrassed to admit that 7th September was an exciting day for me knowing that new toys and gadgets were about to be announced.
This week a fairly well-known technology company in Cupertino changed the world, again. Having been through this process a number of times now, Apple aren't afraid to demonstrate the power and wellbeing of their handsome portfolio and making a spectacle of their wares is something we are all now accustomed to. The big story of the night, aside from how empty your wallets are going to be soon, is that Apple is dispensing with some old, familiar functionality which users and consumers have relied upon for over 100 years. With the launch of the newest generation of iPhone, the mini phono jack will become a thing of the past paving the way for fresh technologies and forcing the world to embrace a new way of listening.
This move has sparked outrage from many, claiming that the California-based technology giants are not considering their long-standing and loyal customers’ wishes and forcing consumers to pay out more money to ‘keep up’. As you’d probably expect, Twitter came to life with activities relating to the launch, most of which was focused on this change. The poor Twitter user, @HeadphoneJack, was forced to lock down his account as the more parody-focused tweeters went to town on prophesising the demise of life as we know it without the audio socket. Thinking differently, this move is not uncommon and businesses time and time again force innovation upon us only for the audience to eventually relent and say, “This is everything I wanted, and more!”
Step inside any entrepreneur’s head and undoubtedly you’ll find the golden rule “the customer is always right”. It’s the pearl of wisdom everyone seemed to get on their first day of their first job and invariably it stays with them throughout their career. Like most business values, it can easily be misconstrued and is often used as leverage for a complaint, or for an industry to be led by what they perceive to be “give the people what they say they want”. Henry Ford, American industrialist and the founder of the Ford Motor Company was famously quoted as saying, “If I’d asked people what they’d wanted, they’d have said faster horses.” This goes against the ethos that the customer knows best, instead inciting industries and innovators actually know what is best for their customers. So which is it?
Effectively, both opinions form the basis of a much greater quest for innovation. The customer owns the vision, the dream and the motivation to achieve something which must be understood intrinsically by their provider. It’s then the provider’s responsibility to take their skills, experience and ‘know-how’ to make it happen. Henry Ford didn’t destroy people’s dreams to get somewhere quicker, he simply came up with a solution that surpassed his customer's expectations, just as Apple are not seeking to stop people enjoying the wide variety of media that their products can present.
Those who are in tune with the necessity to balance the wishes of their customer whilst capitalising on expert knowledge are actually not listening to what the customer wants in a product at all, they are listening to the outcome they hope to achieve. Customers will undoubtedly base what they want on what they’ve seen before; to innovate we need to be more creative, and be courageous enough to move forward through new thinking. Try and consider the things you want or need; that you have yet to think of. How can you wait for those if you haven’t even thought or seen them yet?
The difficulty comes when one party is more prepared than the other, as a consumer, we can wait an age for something to come to market and satisfy our requirements, or in many cases, disappoint us. Back in 1996, Microsoft saw fit to purchase a small, opportunist start-up called Web TV, which was attempting to provide internet access to your living room television via a dial-up connection. Needless to say, MSN TV as it became, did not make the cut and was decommissioned with little impact being left on the world. Of course, when internet connectivity became more robust and resilient this innovation was refloated with a much more favourable response.
Innovation and new ideas come with their own challenges, particularly when they come from others. We as consumers are forced to go through the five stages of acceptance; shock, resistance, the turning point, adapting and finally learning to accept. An idea forged from our own experiences forces us down the same road; however, we have the luxury of going through all those stages before we share the idea with anyone else!
The travel technology world is brimming with excitement and anticipation for innovations that will change the way we move, making it more simple and slick whilst maintaining the joy of exploration. In a world where we are quite literally ‘shooting for the moon’ we remain acutely aware that our customers want more, and we cannot wait to give it to them.
Standing on the precipice and observing the reactions to Apple’s latest announcement, I wait in anticipation for the unfolding reactions to develop and mature into our fundamental expectation as new becomes “norm”. With the right level of support, knowledge, and experience the world is going to come on board with this change, just as it has done with most innovations before it.
So will the age old battle ever be settled as to who is right? My money is on a not-so-exciting score draw; the customer will always be right, but business will always need to surprise the customer as well and long may that continue.
At Billian, we are always looking for the next opportunity to go Beyond Expectations with our customer's ambitions. If you'd like to know more, come visit us atwww.billian.co.uk.
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