Tag Archives: consumer behavior

When just making a change isn’t enough

4 Jan

In the office where I work, we recently got a new swanky coffee machine, to replace the one that was so out-of-date that it was almost an antique. It had more options, better coffee and instant options. Almost everyone hated it. Why? Because no one knew how to work it! It was a shocking change. We went home one evening with our good old coffee maker in place, and came back the next day to this new, shiny contraption that denied the morning cuppa to almost everyone.

This is what Facebook has also done to its interface; it has made too many changes too quickly for users to adapt to it. See the response of a Facebook user, who went on a vacation and came back to find his social universe incomprehensible:


In a book about innovation that I was reading, there was an example about re-inventing the toothpaste cap to make it more user-friendly. Apparently due to the traditional screw on design of the cap, a lot of people would leave the tube uncapped and wasted a lot of paste. To overcome this, the company came up with push down caps. Sales dropped!  Consumers, used to screw on caps since childhood, were unwilling to change their behavior and weren’t comfortable with the new caps. Ultimately the company had to come up with a new version of the cap that took into account the consumer preference.

There are many such examples, perhaps the most memorable being the “New coke” vs. the “Classic coke”. Why do these changes fail? We’ve all heard that to stay ahead of the competition we need to constantly innovate, evolve and change and we run about trying to do just that. But change for the sake of it just leads to a waste of time, efforts and resources.  

What can one do to avoid this scenario?

  • Take customer behaviors into account. Long standing habits, cultural preferences etc. can be hard to break.
  • Introduce the change gradually
  • Educate the customer about the change. What have you done, why was it needed, how will it benefit the customer
  • Take a dip-stick survey to find out if your customer is happy with the “new and improved” you are offering
  • Re-trace your steps and don’t hesitate to pull back if something is not working

Have you had such an experience with change?