The Water-Saving Dual Function Toilet Handle: Product Leadership, Customer Intimacy, or Operational Excellence?
Some of the nicest things about publishing a blog a couple of times a week to several thousand current and former Business Acumen skill building engagement participants are the ongoing relationships and the opportunities for continuous learning.
From time to time I receive emails, texts, pictures, and other forms of media asking for my opinion on business acumen related matters in the areas of strategy, marketing, finance, sales, supply chain management, and many more. Every single interaction is interesting, worthwhile, and full of enjoyment as we apply concepts and hopefully use new skills to make better business decisions.
Recently, I conducted a Business Acumen for Healthcare Sales Professionals training session for sales people who sell sophisticated software solutions to hospitals and integrated healthcare networks. One of the most important topics that we explore in the training is understanding and determining the customer’s business strategy. We do this so that the sales professionals in the workshop can position the value of their solutions in business terms to the C-Suite of their customer, not just the technical terms of the software to an IT decision maker. In the training, we discuss how the most successful organizations today choose and offer just one clear value proposition to their customers and execute it flawlessly. If you are unfamiliar with the Discipline of Market Leaders concepts by Treacy & Weirsema, they propose there are only three different value disciplines an organization can offer to its customers: Product Leadership, Customer Intimacy, or Operational Excellence. In our programs and business simulations, we study these concepts and learn how to apply them back to the job as part of the sales process.
When I received the photo below from one of our former participants, it of course made me laugh and then think about the question attached-“Rob, just used the restroom at a new account. Beautiful, state-of-the-art facility with valet parking, free coffee, and snacks in the waiting area. Just curious what you think their value proposition is? Check out the attached picture!”
What a fascinating question! In response, and as part of this blog, I decided to conduct a
brief analysis to create an ongoing environment of continuous learning. Although I do provide my opinion at the end for the sake of the exercise, there are of course many other factors that go into the answer and the ultimate strategy of the hospital – including the financials – that must be explored further.
The Case for Product Leadership
The dual-flush handle is an amazing innovation! Well designed and engineered, it brings the process of flushing to an entire new level. It is a way to differentiate and appeal to innovative, environmentally-conscience early adopters who appreciate a fine design. The extra special “whooshing” sound it makes for position number two (solid waste mode) gives the innovative user a sense of power and certainty that everything is working well and there is no need to worry about a second flush.
The Case for Customer Intimacy
The dual-flush handle provides customers with the level of customization they desire for all of their bathroom needs. By focusing on the specific needs of the customer and giving the customer the choice, flushers feel as though the hospital really cares about them and their bathroom needs and provides them with the comfort and satisfaction they require.
As an extra special bonus (take a closer look at the picture), the handle itself has a special coating to protect against germs. This extra coating and thoughtfulness further demonstrates how much the hospital cares about its patients and their health.
The Case for Operational Excellence
The dual-flush handle is the perfect solution for hospitals trying to drive costs out of the system. By saving money on water, the hospital is super-efficient and demonstrates to the world that they know how to save money by investing in equipment that is oriented towards saving money. If the organization can drive 5% of the costs out of water, supplies, administration, and other costly functions, they can use the cash savings to offer better and more affordable care to their patients.
Since I was directly asked for my opinion, I do feel obliged to choose one of the three cases I have just laid out. If I had to choose one, I would say this is a Product Leadership play. I believe that the true message being sent here is that this hospital isn’t your same old and musty hospital of the past. No, this hospital is modern, innovative, and uses the best new equipment in the world to solve the needs of patients. I think the fact that this innovative solution can be customized to your specific bathroom needs - and is a cost-saving and environmental sustainable solution - is actually an added bonus to the innovation value proposition.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts on this one publically or privately and I will try to respond as soon as possible.