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Ryan E. Day

Quality Insider

Give ’Em What They Want, Not What They Think They Want

Customer service at the speed of technology

Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - 16:57

‘This 3/8-in. corded drill/driver features a 4.5-amp motor that offers up to 1,500 rpm for powerful drilling and driving in a variety of materials. The variable-speed trigger helps you match the speed to the application, while the lock-on feature enables continuous drilling and helps to reduce operator fatigue during long drilling times. The ergonomic handle includes a GripZone for comfort during use.” Sold! I need to drill holes, and that drill is exactly what I want.

“Our Industrial Plasma Cutter is a lightweight unit that features powerful inverter technology for smooth cutting. Handles almost any project you can throw at it, from mild steel to copper, brass, stainless, and aluminum up to 3/8 in. Cuts faster and more precisely with a thinner kerf and less slag than cutting with oxy fuel. A smaller heat-affected zone also causes less warping. No gas pressure settings, flame tuning, metal preheating, or gas cylinders or refills to worry about, ever.”

Hold the phone. Forget the 3/8-in. drill; the plasma cutter is waaaay better! That’s what I want.

“The X-1 Water-Jet features an industrial PC controller designed specifically for five-axis water-jet cutting. Featuring an open architecture design that gives operators the freedom to tune programs from any CAD/CAM/nesting software, utilizing standard G&M code. The X-1 Water-Jet system cuts complex, taper-free holes from virtually any material!”

Be still my beating heart. I have found hole-making Nirvana!

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”
—Theodore Levitt

Never more true. With the ludicrous pace of change today—from software to 3D printing to group sourcing—consumers, our customers, are having a more difficult time than ever keeping up with what solutions are available to them. The point being, if they don’t know about your unique solution, they can't want your product, which means, of course, they can’t buy your product. And that means the consumer might not be using the best solution to their particular problem.

Over and over I hear customers requesting the same old product, the same old “solution.” The same solution that may not have worked so well the last time around!


Maybe this customer’s old cordless drill just gave up the ghost and he needed a hole right now, and we didn't insist he look at our Uber-Efficient CNC Controlled Water-Jet system because he was in a hurry. And now our customer is going to go back in his shop and fight with and curse at the new drill we sold him. We missed a righteous upsell, our customer is still using a Stone Age implement, and neither one of us is particularly happy about it.

Technology is changing. Techniques are changing. Possibilities for new and better solutions abound. If we ask ourselves, “What is customer service?” in this context the answer is, “Solutions at the speed of technology.” It is our job to stop selling product and start communicating with our customers. Get up in their heads (so to speak). If our customers ask for a product or service, and we do not offer possible alternatives that could increase their bottom line, then we are not doing our jobs. Feeding consumers the status quo because they ask for it is a cop-out and a disservice.

Innovate—create—solve! Then start selling holes instead of drills.


About The Author

Ryan E. Day’s picture

Ryan E. Day

Ryan E. Day is a contributing editor and the content-marketing coordinator at Quality Digest. With a varied career from mechanic to artist to inventor holding a U.S. patent, but a journalist at heart, he’s produced freelance feature articles, op-ed pieces, ad copy, and display communications.


water is really wet?

We may end up discovering that it isn't, by investigating what our job is: customership is itself a process output, and that process is basically a manipulation, a kind of mind warping, if you want. It's easy to say give the customers what they want, but any customer - even ourselves - often does not know what he actually wants, where, when, how. Our customer's image is still strongly biased by western movies showing John Wayne's clenched jaw, or the World War II movies chanting heroic stories. The World is made of jelly, rather than stone. 

IF only...

Great point...reminds me of Deming's "carburettor" story, in a way. If only we could get cable companies to do this; I might be able to pay a lot less for the handful of channels I DO watch instead of an arm and a leg for the other 750 channels I have to waste time flipping through to get to any of that handful.

Cable TV

750 channels and nothing worth watching. Such a deal!

Don't you want to keep up

Don't you want to keep up with the Kardashians?!?!? ;-)