This post continues my earlier discussions on 'Confronting Change'.
The latest volley of conventional wisdom (click here to read how I feel about this particular subject) posits that we now live at a time where technology is enabling us to recruit customers to help us design our products. The principle is absolutely right but I believe that we are rapidly evolving to a stage where the expectation is that customers will do pretty much all of the design work and this is absolutely not right. I now frequently come across: "We'll get [it] out to market and if it's not right our customers will tell us how to solve it." Multiply this across thousands of products and services and the pressure on customers to help companies get it right becomes unbearable.
This is particularly true in the consumer technology sector (both for products and services) where of late more and more offerings are coming out to market 75% finished instead of a more acceptable 98% - acceptable that is only if there is absolutely no way that it can ship 100% finished. Of course there are competitive pressures but speed-to-market should not become an excuse for negligent work!!! Furthermore, considering that we are rapidly coming to a point (if we haven't reached it already) where any 'kid with some pocket change' (in another context a very good thing) can develop and market a new product or online service, I fear that things are likely to get much worse on this front going forward.
Finally, I have not come across that many people questionning the long-term damage in consumer confidence that this is causing. If customers were somewhat apprehensive about trying new technologies before we're closely approaching a point where we're scaring the bejesus out of them! As an industry example, it may be worthwhile noting that for all the iPods sold out there people using digital music and MP3 players still pales in comparison to those making do with conventional CD's. We're going to have to work a lot harder at getting the right products and services on the market to appeal to this audience.
Ultimately: "It is not the responsibility of customers to run or tell you how to run your business. That's what they pay you for when they buy your products and services."