Recently, I was asked by my boss to get rid of a portion of our website for a product we wouldn’t be offering anymore. The product was little used and little loved over its lifetime, and while we still have the capability to provide said product, we’ve just decided to allocate those resources to other products to make them better.
And while this was an interesting moment for me, it wasn’t something we popped a bottle of champagne over in celebration. We offered a product, it wasn’t very widely used, we did away with it. Not a moment we’d commemorate in any way.
But should we?
I got a look at the t-shirts that were created by the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft. They’re celebrating the ever-shrinking presence of Internet Explorer 6, a browser that is now three versions old. More importantly, they’re celebrating the fact that they won’t have to service it anymore. They’re letting it die, moving on to bigger and better problems and new developments that are (hopefully) going to keep designers and web-heavy users from abandoning the IE browser as their default web browsing application in favor of Chrome and Firefox.
And more than just letting it die, they’re dancing on its grave.
I’ve worked in a few different places in my time, but no place taught me more about the business of…well, business…than the major chain restaurant at which I waited tables. Being a waiter really teaches you a lot about humanity – the way people eat, what their ideas of “good manners” are, how much corporate-approved-birthday-song-singing you can do before you go insane – but maybe the most incredible thing you learn is how angry people get when you take something off a menu.
See, chain restaurants change their menus every quarter (give or take) and try new things that someone at the test kitchen dreamed up as a possible “super star” of the menu. Some menu items are so sought after that they’re the reason people come to the restaurant. Some items are “workhorses” – menu items that aren’t crazy popular but are dependable enough (and profitable enough) to keep on the menu year-round. Every so often, a new, reliable dish is discovered that people really love. That means it stays. When it doesn’t sell well or proves too expensive to be sustainable as a product? It goes away. Some people get angry when that happens.
I remember the large chain restaurant I worked for (whose name I’ve omitted to protect the innocent) having a special dessert that many people liked. They swooned over it; some people would even order two at a time and gobble them up like a hungry dog. I should take this opportunity to remind you that desserts at a restaurant take the least effort to make and, typically, just pad the bill. Next to liquor sales, desserts are what managers are pushing you to move out on the floor because it’s negligible labor cost to them. You want to move desserts because, hey, that’s more of a check for someone to tip you on at the end of the meal. Another $2.50 for a cup of coffee and a $6 slice of cheesecake, you say? Twenty percent of that is $1.70 and I have to make rent, so sure I’ll go get you some coffee and a slice of cheesecake. Whatever.
Why do I bring this up? Because that dessert I mentioned disappeared one quarter and people freaked out like their high-school sweetheart got hit by a bus.
“What do you MEAN, it’s gone?!?” one lady yelped at me one day.
“Oh, man…oh wow. Wish I’d known that the LAST time I was here,” another man sulked.
Was anyone at corporate worried about this? Not one bit. Nobody started a letter writing campaign, nobody petitioned the company, nobody went nuts about it – a few people that liked it complained, but they just picked a different dessert and moved on with their lives. And corporate brought in something pumpkin flavored for the Fall and that was the end of it.
What this has to do with your CU?
This is a challenge to you to sniff around and find out what’s costing you more than its earning in return. If you killed one product that you offer, if you switched one more thing to electronic delivery or email, would people grab a pitchfork and demand satisfaction? Or would they go about their lives as they always had? I’m betting it’s the second.
We have a story that we share with new DigitalMailer eStatement clients. An older member got an email that alerted her that her eStatement was “ready to view”. She drove to the credit union and asked the manager for her eStatement. Where was it? Why wasn’t it there when she went to the mail?
The manager politely switched the nice lady back to a paper statement. That’s one of the rare stories we hear where people are displeased with the move from paper to electronic.
Some people can’t change, won’t change, don’t change. But in business, going after that one, wandering sheep won’t do the rest of the flock any good. Make decisions that make sense for your bottom line and the members’/clients’ best interest. And don’t weep for bygone programs or products – I promise, they don’t feel bitter about it.