Its a shame that company executives do not listen to customer’s free advice

In my book titled Customer Icebergs, I had suggested that customers are the greatest source of free innovation ideas which a company can use to establish its competitive advantage and I have given numerous examples of companies which have benefited from customer’s suggestions.

In June 2008, I had written a blog commenting on the current marketing position of HT Shine, the appointment supplement of Hindustan Times newspaper. I had suggested in the blog that they should break the paper into 4 zones so that advertisers can release job advertisements in their relevant area only thus their reducing cost. This would have given HT Shine an advantage over Times Ascent. I had been talking to HT executives about this much before I wrote the blog. But just like most companies, they ignored my suggestion. One of the reason given to me for my suggestion not being practical was that operationally it would be a nightmare.

2 days back, I received a mail from Dr. Bhaskar Das, Executive President of Times Group that they are now going to allow retail advertisers to advertise according to certain zones. I think they have made 3 zones. When I spoke to one of the HT executives, he said that HT City has also done the same.

My question is how come it became operationally easy to do so now? Why have they not done the same with their job supplement? The answer is very simple. When the going is good, companies are not interested is listening to customers. Companies start innovating and listening to customers only when business is on a downturn. Just imagine telling the arrogant Times of India to allow regionwise advertisement during the boom period? They would have just ignored you or laughed at you. Now during slump, they are willing to do anything.

Just as good times are followed by bad times, every boom by a recession, negative attitude of companies towards customers is followed by a positive one and innovation indifference is followed by innovation focus. So can one say that a slowdown is good for the customers as well as the companies? Evidence suggests that it probably is.

Hey, another example that what I say on this blog is meaningful, inciteful and analytical. I know I should not blow my own horn but they say that in the service industry it is necessary to do so once in a while.

Avinash Narula

So what is the gap that I am proposing? The above suggests that HT should take out separate editions for regions of Delhi NCR. For instance, East Delhi, South Delhi, North Delhi, West Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon. They already have editions of their supplement HT Live for these region. As such distribution will also not be a problem. In any case, even with this system, they can still take the advt of a company that wants to advertise in the whole of Delhi. Such a strategy will entice advertisers as they will be able to reduce their cost of advertising. It will also save them processing time as they will get less but more appropriate resumes. Most of all, it will establish a distinct positioning in the minds of advertisers and readers. The message that HT can give to advertisers and readers is, “If you are looking for employees from specific areas, advertise with us and if you are looking for employees from all over Delhi, you can advertise with TOI-Ascent.” Apart from this, HT can also expect its circulation to increase. Imagine the difference it can make in a city like Mumbai where the distances are even larger.

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