If Your Customers don’t Understand Your Product, it’s Your Fault


Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

Related Post Roulette

21 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    This is the problem with American universities! Everyone is confusing their product of pure intellectual advancement with one of career training.Report

  2. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Still, it’s a good idea for businesses to internalize the idea that if the customer doesn’t understand the product, it’s the business that messed up somehow.

    Whatever happened to Buyer Beware???

    More to the point, tho, is this: why is any of this an issue in which fault can be ascribed? If the business model is to make money providing a language learning service and the business is achieving that goal, irrespective of customer’s “understanding”, then what more are they – as a business! – supposed to do? I mean, I understand an argument that it may be in PopupChinese’s best long term interests to maximize user-friendliness (cuz it’ll generate new customers via word of mouth, say) but why think that they have an obligation to? Why think that any blame can be ascribed here? WHAT ARE YOU BLAMING THEM FOR?Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      I guess this is a reference to something else, but I have no idea what.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Just responding to Vik’s post. I’m working under the assumption that he wrote it for a purpose which goes beyond mere complaining.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          IIRC he has an advanced degree in something related to business management. I assume this is a post about business strategy. I don’t even see this as being a complaint at all. Overall he seems happy with the product but thinks it could be marketed better.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Maybe you can help out then: what’s the point of this post? That a good business model ought to include good customer service?

            {Man, I hope it’s more than that…}

            If so, why? Because they owe it to the customer? (!!!???)Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

              I think this: “Still, it’s a good idea for businesses to internalize the idea that if the customer doesn’t understand the product, it’s the business that messed up somehow.”

              The underlying assumption here is that businesses are typically aimed at making money. If you’re making less money than you would like to be, and think that this is due in part to customers not understanding your product, you should try to figure out how you can resolve that issue issue.

              I guess? I don’t know. The fact that you don’t get it makes me question whether I get it, because it seemed pretty clear to me. I’ll let Vikram take it from here.Report

              • Avatar Alan Scott says:

                Still, it’s a good idea for Vikram to internalize the idea that if Stillwater doesn’t understand the post, it’s Vikram that messed up somehow.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Alan, what’s weird about your response is that I think I do understand it. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

                +1 Alan, I couldn’t have said it better. In particular, if something isn’t clear to a regular reader like Stillwater, it’s probably fair to say that I had room to improve the post before publishing.Report

            • Avatar krogerfoot says:

              You’re kinda illustrating the OP’s point about the lowest-common-denominator customer, @stillwater. Vikram’s making a point about selling a product in a wide-open competitive market. Even if they do that perfectly, it’s not going to get your shirts any cleaner, because they sell hammers.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      Stillwater: I understand an argument that it may be in [Chinesepod’s] best long term interests to maximize user-friendliness (cuz it’ll generate new customers via word of mouth, say) but why think that they have an obligation to?

      They don’t have an obligation to, but it would be in their own best interests to represent their terrific product in the light it deserves.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “why is any of this an issue in which fault can be ascribed?”

      I’d suggest that Vikram’s upset comes from the quoted PopupChinese forum post, where they complain that users who ask for more episodes aren’t understanding the intent of the service. I think that what Vikram is saying is that the post should be on the front page, not buried in a forum, because the fact that people are asking about it means they don’t understand what PopupChinese is trying to give them.Report

      • Avatar Guy says:

        More, I think, that they should have some kind of clarification somewhere as to what users are supposed to do with the service. All they have are the episodes; when people want more of their product, it seems reasonable to ask for more episodes. Apparently PopupChinese has some kind of reason for not doing that, but that reason is rather unclear at the moment.Report

  3. Avatar Kim says:

    Dude! Buy some chinese translations of video games! Then pick up some chinese subtitles (with the Chinese spoken).

    You aren’t the only one who learns by reading… .Report

  4. Avatar ktward says:

    Just an FYI …
    The full text of Vikram’s since deleted post, “There are no accidents”, remains on my Netvibes feed.

    This is the first time I’ve mentioned it, but it’s not at all the first time I’ve noticed OT posting a piece that was, ultimately, immediately deleted from OT.

    Page not found isn’t really covering all your bases. Just saying.Report

  5. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    For what it’s worth, the post is crystal clear to me. It’s not the customers’ job to figure out why they’d want what you’re selling, but as Vikram points out, a lot of businesses fall at this hurdle. Same thing with artists—people put in a lot of time and energy in creating something, then get strangely bashful about beating the bushes to tell people about it. This is a primary reason (besides sucking) that I failed as an artist; I felt like, if you can’t see how obviously great this is, I don’t want to waste my time explaining it to you.

    I’ve never studied Mandarin, but I have been fascinated by the discussions at Language Log, whose main posters are native-English-speakers who are longtime scholars and instructors of Mandarin and Cantonese. Their complaints about Chinese-language pedagogy track yours, Vikram. Chinese languages are hard to learn, and there is vigorous debate about how to go about teaching them.

    For foreign learners, Japanese has many of the same challenges of Mandarin. There really is no one approach to studying it, because for the most part, foreign speakers of Japanese are typically aiming at a level of competency that is nowhere near fluency. Being able to chitchat socially, or get your hands on products and services, or reassure clients/landlords/in-laws/taxi drivers that you can follow their instructions and not cause a scene is sufficient in most of the situations that most foreigners find themselves in.

    PopupChinese seems like a cool idea that will serve most beginning Chinese enthusiasts well. I’ve just listened to the one episode, but it imparted some really useful knowledge on a few specific points in a very engaging and compact way. Again, I can’t judge the language itself, but I’ve been in this business myself for decades, and these guys seem to deliver a real sense of “hey, I learned something” in only ten minutes, which is enormously hard to do.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      krogerfoot: Their complaints about Chinese-language pedagogy track yours, Vikram.

      This might not be an accident. I’ve read that blog and liked it a lot. I haven’t followed them so far as to get the 1960s DeFrancis books they speak so highly about yet though.Report