Want Magic? Spill the Secrets of Your Black Box

July 6, 2011
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With the rise of cloud computing, it’s easy to get the impression customers don’t care how a particular process or product works—that they only care about results. And the process of hiding—black boxing—the inner components of a product or service, definitely makes sense when competitors are snooping for clues. However, in the name of transparency, giving customers a “window view” of your daily processes might just be the key differentiator you’ve been seeking.

With the rise of cloud computing, it’s easy to get the impression customers don’t care how a particular process or product works—that they only care about results. And the process of hiding—black boxing—the inner components of a product or service, definitely makes sense when competitors are snooping for clues. However, in the name of transparency, giving customers a “window view” of your daily processes might just be the key differentiator you’ve been seeking.

Watch Apple CEO Steve Jobs give a keynote presentation and you’ll probably come away with the belief there’s more power in “magic” and “mystique” than exposing the inner workings of a particular product or service. However, in some instances you can also create “magic” by showing customers the value creation process.

Editor’s note: Paul Barsch is an employee of Teradata. Teradata is a sponsor of The Smart Data Collective.

Take BMW for example. An article in the Financial Times titled; “Benefits of a Showroom Bypass” cites how BMW is now offering buyers a way to circumvent the dealer showroom and custom build a car of their very own.

Customers can customize their own automobile from paint and interior colors to installation of custom features such as grills and moon-roofs. But the real magic begins when BMW films the entire production process of a customer’s specific car – all the way down to showing the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – and then ships the DVD to the buyer.  Imagine receiving a DVD in the mail showing how your specific car was built –now that’s magic!

If customers are not appreciative of the value your company delivers, perhaps a new strategy of additional transparency can win them over.  Some examples to increase transparency include:

  • Show customers your ingredients, components, processes, configurations etc. “Behind the scenes” tours anyone?
  • Help customers analyze trade-offs similar to what Progressive Insurance does by showing competitor rates
  • Give them more references – i.e. 90% of your customer base, not just the 2-3 customers who love your product/service

To be sure, too much transparency may disclosure your “secret sauce” to competitors. But where possible, “throw back the hood” of how your product or service is created or delivered. It may just end up telling a more magical and differentiated story than your competitors!

Question:

  • What’s the right level of transparency to engage customers, while still maintaining a bit of mystique in how your product/service is built and/or delivered?