LearnShareProsper logo Boosting Business_Performance Adele Sommers
by Adele Sommers, Ph.D.
 www.LearnShareProsper.com Adele@LearnShareProsper.com 
In This Issue

August 2023
Volume 19, Issue 8

These are free monthly tips on boosting business and professional results.

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Note from the Author

Anticipating Your Customers’ Circumstances of Use

As you can probably imagine, providing value to customers doesn’t occur by accident. It results, to a large extent, from carefully considering the conditions or circumstances under which people might want — or need — to use your offerings. The actions your products or services take when customers ask questions or request assistance can determine whether you’ll experience their undying loyalty, or whether they’ll turn tail and bad-mouth your brand for the rest of their lives.

Young woman gazing happily at laptop screenWhen you begin the process of designing your offerings, you might assume that all you need to do is choose the types of products and services you want to develop, and then figure out which features should go into each one.

But will you also make every effort to research or predict how buyers might attempt to use them under both usual and unusual circumstances?

Anticipating a full range of circumstances will help you create far better routine user experiences, while also avoiding the risks of overlooking non-routine situations.

Whether you’re creating a basic “how-to” guide on time management, designing a widget, or developing a complex business software system, this article examines what to consider on the non-routine end of the spectrum to help you develop robust, consumer-pleasing offerings.

I hope you enjoy this month’s features, and please be sure to join the ongoing conversations by leaving your comments on my Facebook page!

Here’s to your business prosperity,

Adele Sommers, Ph.D., business improvement specialist, author, educator, and award-winning instructional designer

P.S. If you missed any previous issue, please visit the newsletter archive!

Special Message

What Are Some Routine Circumstances of Use?

Routine circumstances can take many forms, depending on the manner in which people happen to be functioning at any given moment. Wouldn’t you agree that your audiences need to have convenient ways of consuming your products and services in many types of situations?

Woman using a mobile device for a routine taskOn the surface, this idea seems pretty straightforward. But what does convenience really mean in the world today? Isn’t it empowering people to learn or do something at any time of day or night, in any mode they wish, such as:

  • At home or in one’s personal life (as when using a computer to study, work, or play; while doing chores; during quiet time; or relaxing with family or friends)
  • In the office or in one’s professional life (such as using communication devices, giving a presentation, producing a training program, or on a business trip)
  • At school or other learning situation (in a computer lab, in a class discussion, holding a study session, or doing homework)
  • Traveling (by foot, in a car, or on a train, subway, bus, plane, or van)
  • Exercising (such as when walking the dog or bicycling, jogging, or using various types of fitness equipment)

In each scenario, customers expect that during regular business hours, they’ll have the ability to reach out to the product or service vendor for help whenever they have a question or something goes wrong. But is that always the case with non-routine circumstances? Read on to learn more...

Feature Article

Can You Pass the “Midnight Test”?
by Adele Sommers

Gaining an understanding of how your customers might use what you offer can guide you in investigating ways to ensure that they will succeed in any situation — even in extreme conditions or circumstances.

Glowing planetsWhether you are developing a product or service for mass consumption, or creating a customized solution for a client, imagining how your audiences will interact with your wares can spell the difference between success and failure.

This article discusses ways to predict circumstances of use, and why it’s so important to anticipate the possible negative outcomes and ripple effects of your customers’ inability to succeed.

For example, if people cannot interact with your products and services properly, will they simply be frustrated or delayed? Or could they also be at risk of losing their own clients, customers, profitability, credibility, respect, health, safety, or other vital outcomes?

What Are Non-Routine Circumstances of Use?

Non-routine circumstances are the ones we must be especially alert for. These are the atypical, unusual, or even extreme conditions under which people might need to engage with our products, information, systems, or services, including:

  • Woman frustrated with troubleshooting a computer problemRisky or incomplete states, such as in power outages, using incorrect tools, with insufficient resources or training, or with a substandard infrastructure.
  • Stressful or isolated conditions, such as during inclement weather, off-hours, or in remote locations, when it might be impossible to address customer concerns or provide help if anything failed. These include situations in which customers might be working late into the night. They could discover at midnight, for example, that they don’t understand some critical step in a process, or need some other kind of emergency aid.

Therefore, you should consider whether your offerings will work in a bulletproof mode during storms, power outages, or in inaccessible locales.

In suboptimal circumstances such as these, how would your offerings react? Would they be able to complete the action flawlessly, or, almost as ideally, halt the action intelligently and harmlessly and let your customers know what to do next?

Here’s an Example of What Non-Routine Means

Imagine that Acme Fabrication needs to install new enterprise-wide accounting software, and has only one weekend in which to do it in its busy year-end season.

Dan the controller preparing to install the accounting softwareBecause of the impact on daytime production schedules, companies like Acme often must install this type of mission-critical software during off-hours.

However, the vendor for this software offers no support after hours, claiming that the procedure for installing it is “simple and mistake-proof.”

Therefore, Acme’s controller, Dan M., will attempt to complete it without any help, starting at 5:00 p.m. Friday evening.

However, by Sunday evening, Dan runs into several major snags, and the system documentation offers no help for his dilemma. Working alone, late at night, with little or no information and under great pressure to complete the job, he is left with a gut-wrenching decision regarding whether to:

1) Give up and reload Friday night’s backup,

2) Wait until Monday morning to contact technical support in hopes of salvaging the current setup procedure, or

3) Forge ahead until early Monday morning, hoping that through sheer luck and experimentation, he will figure out and resolve the problems before the production staff arrives.

Dan is furious with the vendor for failing to adequately test the softwareDan chooses option #3. He finishes installing the software, and because the system doesn’t supply any warnings to the contrary, the company begins to use it.

Yet no one realizes until two months later that the system has been badly corrupted, dating all the way back to the weekend of installation.

Acme must now shut down its production operations and embark on a very expensive and time-consuming resolution.

Dan is furious with the vendor for failing to fully test the software installation process, ensure that any fault conditions are obvious to users, and otherwise provide needed levels of support for off-hours activities!

How Can You Make Your Products and Services More Bulletproof?

Below are just a few of many relevant recommendations:

  • Comb your lessons-learned database from your past projects or research your customer records to determine whether you need to make improvements in any area pertaining to non-routine circumstances.
  • Design your products and services to install and configure themselves as intelligently as possible, with little or no need for human intervention.
  • Incorporate redundant measures in your products or services to handle any snafu that could arise, based on a wide range of user scenarios.
  • Run copious beta tests, stress tests, and automated load tests, as well as usability tests with real or representative customers to observe just how well people can install and use your products without any assistance. These tests will identify just how self-explanatory your offerings are, and how your products would respond in a variety of different situations.
  • Provide clear, unambiguous documentation that fully explains how to install and use the product, and what resolution procedure to use after hours. There should be a 24/7 support system to quickly assist in these situations.

Man preparing to insert a plug into a socketThat doesn’t mean you necessarily have to plan for every conceivable scenario, like customers subjecting your products to deliberate acts of sabotage, or using them for things for which they clearly were not intended.

But a prudent analysis of what could happen in any situations other than perfectly sunny, 8-to-5 conditions should point to areas where you may need to bolster your product’s functionality, your customer service levels, or both.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Regardless of how simple or complex your products or services are, ask yourself: Can they pass the midnight test?

Moon at midnightIf you ensure that your offerings are bug-free and can function properly under a range of possible circumstances, you’ll prevent those aggravating headaches that could drive your customers away and cause them to vent mercilessly on the Internet.

Unless you can imagine your customers, colleagues, or clients successfully using your product, information system, or service in the middle of the night, in isolated conditions, with no help available of any kind, then it’s simply not ready for prime time!

Copyright 2023 Adele Sommers

The Author Recommends

“Guide to Boosting Productivity and Effectiveness”

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My Productivity Success Kit offers a compendium of “how-to” techniques for increasing your organizational effectiveness.

This comprehensive special report includes 36 pages of tips, best practices, checklists, and worksheets that will help your business gain a potent competitive advantage!

About the Author

"Straight Talk" Special Report
"Straight Talk" Workbook

Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of “Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance” — an award-winning Special Report and Workbook program.

If you liked today’s issue, you’ll love this down-to-earth overview of how 12 potent business-boosting strategies can reenergize the morale and productivity of your enterprise, tame unruly projects, and attract loyal, satisfied customers. It’s accompanied by a step-by-step workbook designed to help you easily create your own success action plan. Browse the table of contents and reader reviews on the description page.

Adele also offers no-cost articles and resources to help small businesses and large organizations accelerate productivity and increase profitability. Learn more at LearnShareProsper.com.

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