Does your product actually make customers better off?


Whenever I go to the dentist, I typically take the train. The dentist’s office is only about a mile away, but the train always seemed faster and more direct than walking. But after waiting much longer than usual after my last appointment (due to rail construction or some other nonsense), I started to wonder: what if walking is actually faster?

With this in mind, I decided to give walking a try. And sure enough, it took just about the same time, maybe less. Plus, I didn’t have to stand around waiting for the train. I felt like I was more in control, which made the trip seem even shorter than it was. I doubt I’ll go back to the train for this type of trip, except in the dead of winter.

I wonder if a lot of products actually face the same tradeoff. In other words, a product may seem like it’s saving you time, but handling all the attendant setup and maintenance and training tasks actually means you’d be better off without it. I probably reject a lot of new gadgets for this very reason, chalking it up to lack of product maturity and a confusing user interface. In the end, the question to ask yourself is this: if customers tried doing things “the hard way” without your product, would they actually miss having your product around? If not, maybe it’s time to rethink your strategy.