Product features customers adore

Many products can be made customer- attractive in form the size, shape, or physical structure of a product. Consider the many possible forms taken by products such as aspirin. Although aspirin is essentially a commodity it can be consumer oriented by dosage size, shape, color, coating, or action time.

Most products can be offered with varying features that supplement its basic function. A company can identify and select appropriate new features by surveying recent buyers and then calculating customer value versus company cost for each potential feature. The company should also consider how many people want each feature, how long it would take to introduce each feature, and whether competitors could easily copy the feature. Companies must also think in terms of feature bundles or packages. Auto companies often manufacture cars at several “trim levels�. This lowers manufacturing and inventory costs. Each company must decide whether to offer feature customization at a higher cost or a few standard packages at a lower cost.

Performance Quality: Most products are established at one of four performance levels: low, average, high, or superior. Performance quality is the level at which the product’s primary characteristics operate. Firms should not necessarily design the highest performance level possible. The manufacturer must design a performance level appropriate to the target market and competitors’ performance levels. A company must also manage performance quality through time. Continuously improving the product can produce the high returns and market share. Lowering quality in an attempt to cut costs often has dire consequences.

Schlitz, the second best beer brand in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, was driven into the dust because management adopted a financially motivated strategy to increase its short-term profits and curry favor with shareholders. In fact, quality is becoming an increasingly important parameter for differentiation as companies adopt a value model and provide higher quality for less money. Cataloger J Crew is raising the prices of its merchandise as it raises the quality bar higher.

Buyers normally will pay a premium for more reliable products. Reliability is a measure of the probability that a product will not malfunction or fail within a specified time period. Maytag, which manufactures major home appliances, has an outstanding reputation for creating reliable appliances.

Reparability: Reparability is a measure of the ease of fixing a product when it malfunctions or fails. Ideal reparability would exist if users could fix the product themselves with little cost in money or time. Some products include a diagnostic feature that allows service people to correct a problem over the telephone or advise the user how to correct it. Many computer hardware and software companies offer technical support over the phone, or by fax or e-mail.

Cisco put together a Knowledge base of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on its Website which it estimates handles about 80% of the roughly 4 million monthly requests for information, and saves the company $250 million annually. Each new call and solution goes to a tech writer who adds the solution to the FAQ thus reducing the number of future phone calls.