Avoiding Step 13 by Leveraging a Value Chain Analysis Via Smarter Packaging

Craig Lutz-Priefert

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When you’re ready to invest your time in developing a solid Value Chain analysis, you want to leverage that time in the most efficient and effective manner. That means looking in the most high-value places in both your company and in your customer’s interaction with your product (service).

A good place to start is by discovering complaints from your customer service dept.

Imagine you are in the tricycle building business. You sell your trikes partially assembled to retailers who sell them to end users. You pack assembly instructions in the carton that the trike comes in. Plus, you supply a 1-800 customer Helpline staffed during daylight ours.

OK, as a smart marketer you decide that the Helpline folks who handle those1-800 assembly questions are a great place to start in your Value Chain analysis. You discover that 40% of the customer calls relate to an assembly question for a one inch stove bolt that is part of the rear axle assembly. Customers invariably can’t figure out how to properly tighten this bolt.

It’s Step 13 in the assembly process

So, you dig a bit. You ask the requisite who/what/when questions concerning the product, model changes, has this particular question been asked in the past, was there a change in supplier, just when did this question became the dominant Helpline question, etc.

After you’ve pulled more than a few hairs out, you realize that the Helpline staff has discussed this problem with the folks in product development. Creating an engineering solution would involve an expensive retooling and it just isn’t worth it. But, it isn’t like the Helpline staff never tried to solve the problem. That’s a relief. So you thank your lucky stars your staff wants to make it easier for the customer—it’s not an adversarial relationship.

But, you find out that Helpline staff never discussed the stove bolt problem with Shipping, and never spoke of it with Marketing. You speak with both, and uncover a key fact: In a previous model, there was actually an additional, separate flyer on brightly-colored yellow paper that was a supplement to the assembly brochure. This yellow flyer instructed the customer exactly how to tighten the bolt. The bright yellow paper really leapt out when the customer opened the tricycle’s packing carton. There was no way to miss it.

But the separate flyer cost a bit more money, and it was one extra piece to insert into the package, and sometimes they’d get left laying about on the floor and get swept up and trashed; so in a round of cost-cutting Marketing was ordered that the yellow flyer be incorporated into the body of the assembly instructions.

There wasn’t any battle. There wasn’t any consulting of the 1-800 Helpline staff, there was just acquiescence on Marketing’s part—they had to write a new ad campaign anyway and fighting for some assembly copy’s right to stand alone on its own flyer just wasn’t worth it. Truthfully, nobody in Marketing thought much about it. So they just pulled out their old copy of the Assembly instructions, and underneath the stove bolt step, where it used to say: “See attached flyer" they simply double-checked to see that they had the right copy in place, determined there wasn’t enough room for the illustration of the stove bolt that was on the current flyer without over-sizing the assembly instructions, and so they dropped the illustration and just left the copy.

That’s how Step 13 in the assembly of the trike became notorious among the Helpline staff.

Of course, you’ll come up with a solution. And that solution will look like a Package solution—which it is—but it’s a solution as a result of a Value Chain analysis.

We’ll review your solution next time.

Craig Lutz-Priefert is President of Marketing Hawks , a firm providing essential marketing vision for small business.

Marketing Hawks also provides expert sales presentation review at their VideoMyPitch website.


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