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The paradox of cost, quality and speed

We don't need to do a survey to know that your customers want three things – they want a high quality product at a low cost and they want it quickly. It is not unreasonable to want these things. However, for most of us it is difficult if not impossible to offer all three. In other words, you have to decide what you are going to focus on. Rather than try and offer all three, you have to pick two of the benefits:

  • You can respond and deliver quickly with high quality but customers will have to accept high costs.

  • You can keep your costs low and be quick with your responses but customers will have to accept low quality.

  • You can keep your costs as low as possible and your quality high but customers will have to wait because speed is a low priority.

The reason we often get in a mess with customer experience is trying to be all things to all people. Bearing in mind it is only possible to do justice to two of the customer needs you must make choices. It is important to work out what you are good at and pitch this against the size and needs of segment demanding speed and cost; speed and quality; and low cost and quality.

But just a minute. There may be an answer to the rule that says you can't give customers all three of the things they want. Here is the trick – focus on quality. If you focus on quality it will probably cost you something in the short term. It may also take longer to make and deliver your product. However, once quality is established you can work the other two deliverables. High quality products have low rejection rates and reduce the costs of guarantees. Quality products build loyalty which means that customers return without having to spend huge amounts of money generating new demand. And once costs are in check and the quality is established, you can churn out the products quickly with the speed at which Amazon delivers to your door.

So, while we recommend segmenting customers according to their needs, do remember that there is no substitute for quality. Things of quality have no fear of time and are remembered long after the price is forgotten.


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