retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

According to the wise old adage, if you build a better mousetrap, the customer will beat a path to your door.

I hate to tinker with age-old wisdom, but I’m betting you’ll have a lot more success if you make sure the path is easy to find, follow and use. If not, you may get stuck with a lot of unsold mousetraps.

Success in any business is such an incredible mix of steps, but one simple scene in the wonderful movie The Right Stuff explains it all: A group of the original Mercury astronauts and engineers consider a simple question.

“What makes these rockets fly?” The engineers say it’s too hard to explain. The astronauts say it has nothing to do with aerodynamics, physics or any science. Rather, it comes down to funding. The equation is simple: “No bucks, no Buck Rogers."

It’s a great lesson for any business. There will never be a single shopper who selects a store or product based on logistics, supply chain relations, technology or anything else along those lines. They don’t care if goods came by direct store delivery or got dropped off the International Space Station.

They come for the produce and meats. Or they come for values and the unique mix of service, selection and price that satisfies their needs and wants. There’s a simple truth for the industry: if you lack a good supply chain you can’t provide efficiencies to make all that happen. No efficiencies, no sales; it’s that simple.

Today we are getting an incredible lesson on the importance of blocking and tackling or doing the small things right. Luckily, you can’t possibly miss it.

There’s no chance you haven’t heard of the website woes being experienced by the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare." Forget all the controversy over the program and forget your personal and political feelings about the whole concept.

Just consider this: people who are trying to use it are not succeeding. I know because I’ve tried repeatedly in hopes that maybe I could actually find useful information for my own health insurance needs as a one-person business.

My wife and I have both tried and neither of us has found a way to get to the promised point where we can compare different policies that might fit our needs better than what we have today. We are college graduates, veterans of business and experienced users of the web. We are armed with good computers and high-speed Internet connections.

And we simply cannot get there.

So even if this is the single best program ever created, if it somehow is a panacea for all of mankind’s needs from health to budgetary woes, it does NOT matter. We cannot get through. Based on what seems to be on every news show, newspaper and website, we aren’t alone. Apparently the vast majority of visitors to www.healthcare.gov are having the same problems we find.

Now it’s possible the problems will disappear today. Perhaps the government will get Facebook, Google, Amazon or maybe the Content Guy to demonstrate how a website should work.

In the meantime the rest of us need to absorb this lesson and remember: No bucks, no Buck Rogers.

Businesses need ensure that your customers don’t ever face barriers or frustrations that damage the experience or ruin the sale. You need to make sure your websites, your phone networks and especially your stores and people don’t throw up obstacles that leave customers shaking their heads and walking away in frustration.

Plus, it reminds the entire industry of the importance of making sure things work to provide the value customers seek in the end. That means endless attention to the supply chain or all the supporting structures you have to sell products on the front line.

Remember the customer doesn’t care how it happens, only that it happens the right way for them.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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