Bridge the Gap: What's the Customer's POV?

One of the most common communication challenges is bridging the gap created by different points of view (POV).

Let me give you an example. Lean for the Machine is a practical part cost reduction training program.

The goal is to teach participants how to solve design, purchase, bid and production challenges to reduce overall part costs.

Pivotal to the process is a pricey custom software program that shall remain unnamed.

Training participants range from design and manufacturing engineers to machine operators, shopfloor supervisors and purchasing agents. Let’s focus on design and production for a moment.

Design and production folks typically concentrate on the finished piece. Because they remove material to achieve the desired shape and dimensions, their attention is on the part, not the material removed.

What is material removed? If you’ve ever built anything out of wood, you’ll be able to relate. You saw, trim, chisel and plane to create a table top, leg or stretcher. Your primary focus, your point of view, is on the pieces you’re creating, not the scrap material and shavings generated in the process.

Back to machining. The software programmers constructed a program that used a full range of design, material, machine and tooling factors to determine production costs. Once core parameters were defined, users could run what-if scenarios and substitutions to find ways to cut costs, speed production or maximize efficiencies.

So far, so good. There was one small but significant problem. Part calculations, instructions and input criteria captured the size, shape, volume and angles of material to be removed. Instead of entering finished part dimensions, users in essence had to enter data defining the scraps and shavings created in the machining process.

What was the gap? The engineers and machinists viewed the part as the focal point. The programmers viewed material removal as the focal point. The two groups had different POVs.

This POV divide added layers of complexity to an already challenging learning curve. It also increased the chances that, back on the job, both new and experienced users would revert to their familiar POV and enter incorrect data.

Through ignorance or hubris, the programmers superimposed their logic and thought processes onto the software and its users. Instead of being dazzled by the possibilities, many target customers were understandably frustrated, confused and underwhelmed.

The point? The software designers and programmers violated a fundamental rule for effective communication: Start where the customer is, not where you want them to be.

Define and pinpoint the customer's POV, and you've taken a crucial first step toward bridging a common communications gap.

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