The Fast Eat the Slow

I read a great quote recently from Dick Anderson of IBM who said, “We are moving from a world where the big eat the small to a world where the fast eat the slow.”

Boy, isn’t that the truth!

Case in point: I always pay for my gas with a credit card. My goal is to get in and out of the gas station as fast as possible.

There are two gas stations on my way home from work — the one I used to stop at, and the one I stop at now. The one I used to stop at — a Chevron station — makes me wait what seems like forever for my receipt to print out. The one I now stop at — a Texaco station — starts printing the receipt as soon as I hang up the pump. It’s ready to go when I am.

I have no idea how the prices compare. I don’t care. What I care about is the speed of doing business.

Here’s an online case in point. I went shopping online for a specific model of Casio keyboard. Since I knew it was a Casio I wanted, I went directly to the Casio site. There I was able to dig down and find the model I was looking for, but I was not able to purchase it.

Instead, Casio had a retailer referral system whereby it asked me for my ZIP code and then provided the names of retailers in my area who supposedly carried the product. (Not what I want as a customer, I thought. But a mighty nice way of protecting an existing distribution channel.)

So I called the first retailer, only to find that it didn’t carry Casio keyboards. And believe it or not, I found the same thing with the second retailer. Talk about a disheartening user experience. This was enough to taint my perception of the Casio brand forever. And it certainly wasn’t getting me what I needed fast.

Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. (For most products, I’d have given up at this stage. But this particular model of Casio keyboard offered some truly unique features that I desperately wanted.)

So I went to the search engines and entered the brand and model number. Through this process, I eventually found some online retailers who supposedly carried the product I was looking for. I went to one of the sites, found the product, and placed the order. In doing so, I stipulated that the product must be delivered by December 12, as we would be leaving the country a couple of days later. (This was around December 3.)

December 12 approached, and no word from the site — no order confirmation, no shipping confirmation — nothing! Then, on December 10, a call to my voicemail: “I’m sorry Mr. McEwen, but we will be unable to fulfill your order.”

At every point of contact with the Casio brand, I was prevented from doing what I wanted to do: buy one of their products and buy it fast. I couldn’t buy at the Casio site. I couldn’t buy at supposed local retailers. And I couldn’t buy at the online retailers. (I tried another online retailer after the first disappointment, and that, too, was in vain.)

Chevron doesn’t get my business in the real world because its receipts print too slowly. Casio will never get any business from me, period, because it not only slowed the process, but also it put so many obstacles in my way that I simply couldn’t get what I wanted. (No, I still don’t have the keyboard.)

How fast are you at delivering what the customer wants? How many obstacles do you create in the buying process? And how can you remove these obstacles and accelerate this process? Find the answers, or you’ll get eaten alive.

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