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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Customer Feedback and "The Apprentice"

While watching The Apprentice last Thursday night, I noticed the disadvantage that Chris had competing against the "Magna Corporation." Chris, prior to hearing the dreaded words- "You're Fired," complained that he did not know why he kept losing because he was trying hard.

In the past two weeks, I noticed that Chris's competition who did end up winning each task had a different strategy. What they did was survey potential customers and use their feedback to develop their design. Chris never knew this- he was just competing hard but at the end unsuccessfully.

What does this have to do with Central NY? I work with the local chapter of the American Society For Quality that tries to focus on aligning your product with the needs of the customer. We are working in the Utica area that had the largest population decrease from the last census compared to the 1990 census. Common reasons include the loss of the local Air Force Base in the 90's, loss of GE/Lockheed Martin as a local employer, and the general trend of NY state to lose jobs and population over the last decade.

Rather than focus on those factors we cannot control, I prefer the ASQ model that focuses on customer satisfaction as a model for economic revitalization ( Dr. Deming has a flow chart in one of his books showing this).

The point? Rather than continuing strategies that are not getting you the desired results, change your strategy to focus more on meeting customer needs. As Chris from the Apprentice found out, he was unable to compete with someone who asked the customer what they thought and needed.

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