Your personal and business life will be simplified once you are aware of the power of compounding and the 2 basic principles.
Principle #1 - Simple Disciplines Repeated Over Time:
It is the simple disciplines (choices) in life that don’t seem to make any differences at all in the moment; however, repeated over time, the compounded effect makes all the difference in the world. Personal choices may be to take time daily to talk to a loved one, to show compassion to a colleague or report, to exercise, to meditate, to save money. In business, we employ continuous follow-up after every customer installation, product changes based on customer feedback and implementation, quality corrective actions.
Principle #2 - Simple Errors Repeated Over Time:
It is the simple errors in judgment that don’t seem to make any difference in the moment; however, repeated over time, the compounded effect makes all the difference in the world. Personal examples may be smoking, eating that daily bacon breakfast sandwich, skipping lunch or exercise. These are innocuous, seemingly innocent little "miscues" or transgressions. Businesses may decide to "go cheap" and skimp on customer service, allow more quality defects or cheaper parts in their product, a bank may continuously add fees, etc.
This simply means that things add up over time but in a compound (non-serial) manner, like bank money getting interest on top of interest on top of the original principle. Those french fries you eat every day add up, compounded by the lack of exercise, and over time, you're "suddenly" fat. Well, it really wasn't sudden. The simple repeated "errors" eventually get to the point of being noticed. Vice versa, you can exercise and eat right as a routine and have all this turn into a healthy person.
Many businesses are, unfortunately, testing the limits of customers with Principle #2. Negative compounding can eventually be the "straw that breaks the camel's back". Bank of America is continuously reducing services and adding fees. Their last try at a debit card fee in late 2011 caused a backlash of negative press and consumer resentment. You eventually take your business elsewhere.
Albert Einstein supposedly said that "Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it.". (Probably an urban legend.)
This means to be aware and choose consciously. It's easy to treat each day as in the movie "Ground Hogs Day" with a "rinse, lather, repeat" routine. We're just overwhelmed and tired. What happens is that life passes you by. There's the story about the frog sitting in a pot of water. The frog will sit comfortably in the pot while the water is slowly heated to boiling point. It eventually gets boiled alive*.
This has been and can be applied in business. Do the small improvements and changes continuously.
Fix problems so they don't repeat. Allowing unhappy customer situations to happen repeatedly will eventually add up to an unhappy customer base which then gets compounded to the point of going out of business. Conversely, the continuous, "small" improvements in customer satisfaction and product improvement will eventually show as "big" positive results. Kaisen is the Japanese word for "constant and never-ending improvement". "Kai" means change and "zen" means good.
Credit to Mary Allen for teaching me the 2 principles and compound effect (she also wrote a fascinating book named "The Power of Inner Choice").
* You also need to clamp the lid down and ignore the banging and screaming inside the pot. It still makes a good lesson and worth passing on.
Not many people read manuals. The user will not read the manual or documentation – and will blame your product when they can’t figure it out. This is particularly true in industry where the user will tell his manager that it’s your product at fault, not that he can’t figure it out or know where to look. One of the most thankless jobs on earth must be the tech writer. It’s not necessarily that users are lazy. People are just very busy and just don’t have the time or patience to wade through information. (I can;t even find most of my manuals at home.)
I once had a question about how an older product worked and went looking for one of the engineers who worked on it. His reply was “RTFM!”. For those who don’t know, that means “Read the F’ing Manual”.
That seems to be a common refrain among many who blame the customer for not understanding how things work.
Well, customers don’t have to figure out how things work, we’re supposed to make products work the way the customers expect them to work or the way the customers will interact in their environment.
“RTFM” should be replaced with “RTC” (Read the Customer)!
How to Help Users Avoid Reading the Manual:
1. Make it intuitive and simple. That means having your product look and behave in the manner that the user expects. You really have to spend time observing the user and doing some serious user experience design work. In hardware such as car radios, users still like knobs and buttons even if it’s all digital. Amazon.com’s interface is incredibly simple to use. Shopping departments are laid out on the left of the home screen, the search bar smack in the top center and the user menu bar just above that. Google’s browser wins for its simplicity – one search input field, 2 search choice buttons, and plenty of white space.
2. Provide Help when they need it. Use online context sensitive help or, better yet, embedded help. Context sensitive help allows the user to see detailed help on that particular screen they are viewing by clicking on a key such as F1. Very good context sensitive screens should have hot spots that link to more detailed help text and also related topics links. Don’t forget to add a print function so that people can print out the help screens for a printed reference.
Embedded Help is the most advanced and best form which guide the user with explanations and actions right on the screen. Tax software such as Intuit’s Turbotax do an excellent job with this.
3. Have a big “Easy Button”. 80% of your users will only use 20% of the product features and vice versa. In fact, some of the advanced functions may lead to serious effects on common tasks and make things appear more complicated. As an example, most digital camera users just want to take, view, and transfer pictures or video, use zoom, and flash when needed. They should never play with a feature such as “dynamic histogram display” and will blame the camera if the pictures look bad because they changed the setting (most will not even know that they changed it). Some Sony camcorders actually have an “easy button” which locks out advanced features so you can do simple point-and-shoot recording. Developers can think of adding “skins” to their software – you see it in software games where the interface changes based on the user level (e.g., beginner, intermediate, expert).
4. Have a "wizard". A wizard in software is like a GPS in a car. It will guide the user from start to finish with a series of questions or inputs. TurboTax employs this - in fact, they tout their product as GPS-like. Beware that wizards are double-edged swords and cannot generally address everything - the flow is serial making it difficult to skip steps (some can be default), they may have too many questions and steps making them tedious or they may miss crucial input making them unusable for all tasks. Thus, wizards tend to target the general user.
5. Make training mandatory with the purchase. This applies more to B-B and ensures that the user must get trained and ensures that they have the basics covered and hopefully, learn to set up and use the product in the manner that they need.
6. Customized installations. You set up the product at the customer site per the customer’s needs and environment. That may mean setting up the product or software settings as required and telling the user to just always press certain buttons (creating a simple cookbook) or doing some customized firmware/software changes. Customized programming should be avoided if possible since it tends to lock the user from future developments and upgrades that would be readily available in a generic standard product.
Aside: I once spent an entire day covering every feature on a system during an onsite training session and then asked the users to take over - all I got were blank stares. I worked overnight creating a step-by-step instruction set tailored to their use and operation. The users loved it and thought the product was the easiest thing in the world. It was night and day.
7. Have Very Good Customer Assistance. This can be expensive since some people will simply want to call and expect you to work them through without expending any effort on their part. On the other hand, you can turn some users into very good customers for life if you treat them right or get them out of a jam when they needed help. I’ve turned customers into product evangelists by making them stars to their managers. Good assistance can also be available online with FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), Knowledge Forums, and User Forums (the ultimate where users help each other).
8. Make a Simpler Product. This goes back to 80% of your users will use only 20% of the feature and vice versa. Consider a "lighter" reduced feature version or versions of your product to meet the various market segments needs and user personas.
Frank Lio is a Product Manager, Strategist, and Change Agent in the Hi-Tech industry. His growing track record of successes include creating 3 winning software products, leading nationwide seminars, and turning around a failing business unit. He is currently serving a dual role as Product Manager and Business Team Support Manager at Instron ITW.
Happy to Share!
Want to use my content & images on your website?
I am happy to share but I’d appreciate a credit and a link back to this site. Thanks!