The Gimli Glider

Last weeks Boeing 777 crash landing at Heathrow reminded me of the phenomenal story of the Gimli Glider in Canada in 1983. CBC has a video report from 1983 online as well, gotta love the old 80’s videos.

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The Benefits of "Completing the Product"

Perhaps one of the lower key announcements in Apple’s keynote this week was the solution they developed for people buying a Macbook Air without a CD/DVD-ROM drive. To deal with the potential concern from customers about not having a CD/DVD drive with them when they needed it Apple created a simple piece of software to sit on a Mac or PC which allows the Macbook Air to use the CD/DVD drive on a remote computer. Brilliant! This surely isn’t a marvel of technological achievement but the result of doing it so elegantly portrays the benefits of what I would call “completing the product”. Loosely, I would define “completing the product” as solving a problem that the creators imposed on the buyer as a result of their chosen design constraints. To see how this may play-out at an Apple store near you over the coming weeks consider the following “imaginary” scenario:

  1. Customer comes into the Apple store considering buying a Macbook Air
  2. Customer speaks with sales person and expresses their apprehension about the fact it doesn’t have a built-in CD/DVD drive.
  3. Sales Person says, not to worry you can buy an external one to match the Macbook Air for $99.00.
  4. Customer expresses to Sales Person that this mildly solves their problem thinking that when (and if) they truly need it then they can buy it, however they are not that keen on the additional $99.00 price on-top of the laptop cost.
  5. Customer is still slightly hesitant.
  6. Sales Person asks the hesitant customer if they have another computer at home or at work with a CD/DVD drive.
  7. Customer says yes.
  8. Sales Person says “Perfect, well we have a great solution for you. We include software that lets your Macbook Air use another computers CD/DVD drive wirelessly over your network”
  9. Customer likely first stands amazed about being able to use a CD/DVD drive wirelessly and secondly cheers that this solves all of their concerns!
  10. Customer lays down the credit card and walks out a happy consumer!

Not only has this solution given the sales person a way to address all the customer concerns but they’ve also miraculously turned what was a negative into a positive – think: “Apple is innovative because they are able to let you use a CD/DVD drive on another computer wirelessly!” Of course, it is not rocket science to know the software is just making the act of ‘sharing’ a network drive simple and usable for all users regardless of technical ability but what an incredibly effective way of addressing customer concerns with what was quite likely a minimal amount of development effort. No doubt this small effort will pay off ten-fold in customers gleefully running out the door with a Macbook Air and no CD/DVD drive in hand.

Putting that final bit of polish onto a product is a staple of Apple products with too many examples to list, but it is this attention to ‘completing’ the product that without doubt leads to immense gains in their bottom line due to increased sales, and greatly decreased support costs. It is a key differentiator for them and other companies like them – I just wonder why more companies don’t take note!

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