27 September 2015

Taxi of Tomorrow failing on today's needs?

Last year we discussed the "Taxi of Tomorrow," New York City's taxi design contest. We called attention to the peril of new product development without understanding stakeholders and offered some QFD perspectives.

Now that the winning model (Nissan) is being rolled out to replace the aging fleet of NYC cabs, are New Yorkers happy? Not so fast. The debate continues.

Nissan minivan - the winner of Taxi of Tomorrow contest
Taxi of Tomorrow
Nissan NV200
photo: mr.chopper / wikipedia

The Nissan model (photo right), based on a Japanese family van never tested in a commercial fleet until now, offers features such as a spacious interior, rear seat airbags, driver GPS, and charging ports for electronic devices.

The critics complained that the Nissan model is only a gasoline fueled vehicle (at least for now) and does not offer wheelchair accessibility.

Intriguingly, it caught our eyes that the contest decision makers (politicians, taxi and limousine commissioners, industry leaders) gravitated toward the established, practical product features for the final selection, such as Safety, Comfort, Passenger and Driver Amenities, and Economy.

In the pre-decision survey, the general public additionally voiced these important features: Environmental friendliness and forward-looking design fit for the international center of business, arts, and tourism.

What neither party articulated, during and after the contest, were the true needs of customers, especially the "latent" needs.

That may be why Uber, Lyft, and others are able to make a dent in the market share of traditional taxis. Note here, what types of vehicle it is or what amenities it is equipped with are no longer the differentiating points in this new competition.

This may come as shocking to those who worked hard to bring the winning design onto the streets of Manhattan. But with the entry of this new app-based, on-demand competition, the physical features that the Taxi of Tomorrow has focused have become irrelevant — as if the Taxi of Tomorrow addresses the needs of yesterday!

The city officials are hopeful the new taxi will bring back customers, but it seems they need more than an eye-catching new design to successfully compete in this new market.

How can they turn the Taxi of Tomorrow truly live up to its name?

24 August 2015

Speaking on Innovation, Quality and QFD tools and methods

Have you been wanting to learn more about Innovation, Quality, and Modern QFD?  The latest tools and methods?  The kind of information that you can use right away in your work?

Here are upcoming opportunities that are open to the public:

September 19, 2015
ASQ Innovation Conference 2015
Lecture "Quality Fitness-Focused Innovation"
Charlottesville, Virginia USA

September 25–26, 2015
International Symposium on QFD
Hangzhou, CHINA

October 26–27, 2015
World Quality Forum
Budapest, HUNGARY

November 4–5, 2015
QFD Green Belt® Certificate Course
Calgary, Alberta CANADA

November 6, 2015
ASQ Calgary Quality Conference
Keynote "Mine Your Own Business: Reverse QFD Method"
Calgary, Alberta CANADA

November 9–10, 2015
ASQ International Conference on Quality Standards
Indianapolis, Indiana USA

We look forward to seeing you there!

18 May 2015

How to become a great salesperson

(photo of apartments - photo courtesy of Roy Googin/wikipedia)
photo of big city apartments
photo courtesy of Roy Googin / wikipedia
Last week while apartment hunting with our newly graduated son, I got to meet one of the best sales people I ever met. I'll call her Brittany.

The challenge was this the apartments she had ready for instant move-in were the unites that had two bedrooms and cost about $100 a month more than the one bedroom our son had budgeted.

While he hesitated, Brittany chatted with us about the graduation, our son's new job, and how often we would visit him. Then she struck:

"If he had a two bedroom apartment, you could stay with him!"

Immediately, I did the mental math of our 5-day graduation visit: $150/night for a hotel, $100/day for three meals for two people, etc. If we visited twice per year for five days, our hotel and meal cost would be more than double the difference between a one- and two-bedroom apartment.

Why doesn't he get the two-bedroom and we pay the extra $100/month. A definite win-win!

This is what good sales people do, and why they are so valuable on a QFD team. Brittany was able to quickly translate the feature of "two-bedroom" into the customer need of "parents can visit cheaply."

16 January 2015

Marriott Red Coat Direct

Let's welcome the New Year with some of the tremendous improvements made in the hotel industry in recent years.  We just completed our 26th annual symposium and training sessions at the Charleston SC Marriott. As you can guess, in 26 years we have learned a lot about how we want to run our events and what the hotel must do to make it run smoothly.

Since we are quality assurance professionals, the failure-complaint mode is not our style. We use FMEA thinking to anticipate and proactively assure what goes right and prevent what could go wrong. This includes providing the hotel with the event order spreadsheet that details each day's room set up, meals (including special diets), audio-visual equipment, costs, and so forth. Such information is always welcomed by the hotel’s banquet staff who take care of multiple groups simultaneously.

Despite this, there are always a few minor things each year that we did not anticipate. This year, the unseasonably warm sun poured into the meeting foyer and melted our ice cream snack. Instead of chasing down a hotel worker or relaying the problem through the front desk via a house phone as we usually have to do, we were able to get the melted ice cream replaced instantly with a couple of swipes and clicks!
(screen shot of Marriott Red Coat Direct app)

The "Marriott Red Coat Direct” is a mobile device app that the chain has rolled out in recent years. It lets us meeting planners message anything needing immediate attention, from “adjust room temperature,”  “too much noise from kitchen,” “need more chairs,” to “a daily statement before the end of the day” and more all without leaving the meeting room or even talking.

We can't tell you what a relief this was. The reassuring part of this system is that the message is viewed not only by the banquet staff who were assigned to our function but also by their peers and their bosses. This provides multiple eyes and ears to make sure the meeting planner’s Voice of the Customer is heard and taken care of   in real time.

Most important, it allowed us to focus on what mattered most – our attendees – instead of running around looking for help.

We look forward to hearing more success stories by companies listening to their customers not only to handle complaints, but to build into their future offerings.