Monday, August 31, 2009

Increasing convenience, FTW

Arrow up the treeImage by net_efekt via Flickr

Increasing convenience isn't about being bigger than the competition. Being better than the competition doesn't mean you're increasing convenience for your customers. And while doing things faster is a worthy goal, it's not the same thing as increasing convenience.

Why increase convenience? Because we as a society are motivated by convenience. You may have a different experience on a personal level, but that rule holds true for society as as a whole. En masse, we always reward companies, entities, organizations and people who increase our convenience. Yes, that convenience may take the form of helping people do things bigger, better or faster. But when you pull back the layers, we always move toward increasing convenience.

So before you launch that game-changing service, consider the convenience factor. Will it increase my convenience? Prior to releasing your earth-shattering product to the market, pay attention to making it easy to use. It may be the coolest thing ever, but if it won't increase my convenience, it's going to be a flash in the pan.

Let's end with a pie-in-the-sky scenario: public transportation. I live in Phoenix. Public transportation isn't a viable option for me. Why? Because driving to work is more convenient than taking the series of buses -- with or without the light rail -- necessary for me to get from home to work. There's simply no way that I'm going to give up the convenience of a 30-minute drive compared to the half-hour on public transport. Regardless of how much gas I'll save or how far my carbon foot print would be reduced.

Since they can't compete on the convenience of time, they need to go different directions. How about offering free public wifi on all buses and trains? That would be a game changer. Suddenly my 30 minutes in the car -- one way -- is seen as lost productivity. Can't work on the lappy while driving, and most of my work is web-based work. If I can connect the whole way? Score. That increases my convenience.

If you work on "bigger better faster" assumptions, you're stuck in the status quo. But when you start thinking of ways of increasing convenience, you may find competitive advantages cropping up in all sorts of interesting -- and unexpected -- areas. How can you increase my convenience.

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