Get back in the box!
It’s time to stop thinking outside of the box. Yes indeed, it’s time to get back into the box and do some serious thinking.
Thinking inside the box used to mean restraining creativity with the limitations of conventional thinking. Somebody came up with the idea of breaking through the constraints allowing fresh ideas from outside of the conventional rules of how to approach problems. That’s not a bad idea if you first master conventional approaches to basic problems. Many managers today are so far outside of the box they can’t apply common sense to simple problems.
Example. Customer receives a defective item. A replacement is sent after securing the second item with the customer’s credit card. The replacement is also defective. The frustrated customer provides photographic proof via email. What should be done? Why, let’s call for a meeting in engineering to figure out why the company is shipping defectives! Maybe we can figure out a way for the customer to do his own repair if the company supplies the requisite parts! Why that’s sure outside the box thinking. By golly, that saves the company money and solves the customer’s problem!
Wrong. This is where management needs to get back inside the box. The answer is to go to the warehouse,  hand select and then test a replacement for the customer. Then pick out something nice to include as a bonus at no charge. You then carefully pack this third replacement and ship it to the customer by next day air. Finally, issue call tags to have the defective items returned to your company at your expense. Get defective items out of the customer’s hands as quickly as possible. The last thing you want to see are pictures of your failures posted all over the internet.
Follow up with a phone call to the customer to be certain he finally has what he paid for.
Thinking outside of the box could solve the customer’s problem and save the company some money. But if you can’t think first inside the box—the #1 priority must be to help the customer—your outside the box solution will only complicate and eventually compound the problem.
Okay, you understand the basics and have properly set your priorities. At that point you might benefit from some creative thinking. For example, you might have a dealer near the aforementioned customer. You could pay to have them satisfy the customer. I’m not kidding. The customer is going to remember your action regardless of who carries it out.
But Chris, you are proposing very expensive solutions. Thinking outside of the box saves cost. Screw cost. You blew it when you shipped the defective item. Cost is conserved by preventing the problem. Too late to save cost now. You must satisfy the customer. A happy customer will pay you back with continued loyalty and positive viral marketing. he will also defend your brand. When a brand is damaged in today’s market, it usually will not recover. Brand damage is fatal.
The customers are armed with very powerful communication tools. If you don’t get back to basics and take great care of your customers, the world will know about it within minutes.
Drop the jargon, the graphs, the supply chain nonsense, the efficiencies, the cost reductions, and the corny mission statements and get back inside the box. Don’t wait another day. Do it now.
Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog