Well this time off did not last long did it. I received an email from Autodesk that fired me up and so here we go.
This is another true O’Charley’s restaurants story that has a direct bearing in what is happening with Marketing, PR and the community website. This is sadly another true story I watched in person as a company self destructed from really dumb things. This particular event materialy contributed to the downfall of the whole chain.
Some years ago the vice president of the commissary operations for O’Charleys discovered that his division could make more money by reducing the quality of the ingredients but not the price in the products they made for the restaurants. So he sallies forth one day with his revised Honey Mustard dressing and arrives in the lunchroom to ask employee opinions on his latest creation. What he did was take almost all the Honey out leaving it to be just around 5% of content with the rest now being corn syrup. Up to this point in time Honey was the sweetener. As most employees are known to do when their boss asks them for an opinion they give him what they think he wants to hear. Especially if the boss has a propensity to be irate with those who would doubt his divine guidance in all things. Sonny was one of these and so everyone told him how wonderful his sorely degraded product was. Up until he ran into Gerald.
Gerald is a friend of mine and I was up there later that day only to see him with a strange look upon his face. “So, what’s up Gerald”? He then tells me the following story. As noted above every other employee who was asked about Sonny’s brainstorm all told him how good it was. Gerald however no matter what the risks of truth were with this megalomaniacal boss would give him an honest answer. So he tells Sonny that it stinks compared to what it was. Sonny’s response was what floored Gerald. Sonny stated to Gerald that basically customers were ignorant and that they would be educated as to what they would like. Gerald could not believe the disconnect from reality with this and thus the look of bemusement on his face that day. This began the deterioration of all the products produced by the commissary until it got so bad that the commissary was sold off when the chain ran into severe financial problems. It all happened because one individual decided on his own that he knew better than anyone and did not need to ask anyone, most particularly ignorant customers, about the validity and consequences of his actions and decisions. So when the food went downhill the customer counts went downhill and so did profits at the stores. But Sonny could stand in front of a mirror and argue with the best of them about why his decisions were good ones.
This brings me to the Siemens publicity in general and SE Community websites in particular as this story resonates in my mind’s eye. I don’t know who is asked to provide input and feedback for these things. Maybe it has happened but did you have to be there for that 24 hour window of opportunity to give feedback? I don’t remember being asked about any of this stuff so I have a vision of the same people who only talk to each other talking to each other about web site layout and content and agreeing with each other how good it all is. They are really smart people you know and much better at this than viewers would ever be. In the mean time I bet the viewers are staying away.
You know here is the bad thing about metrics and how do you determine if you are succeeding or not. Remember the https://solidedging.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/the-parable-of-ocharleys-restaurants-and-solid-edge/ post recently here? The numbers looked OK to this guy but he failed to see the truth of it all until remedial action was taken. So here we have a website that may actually have an increase in numbers of views but can these PR wonks bask in the glory of this? Or is the truth of it all that they have no way of comparing what they are doing to what a well done website designed around customer inputs and asked for content would do. I choose to believe that somewhere Sonny or Sonny’s equivalents in Siemens/SE exist that have no desire to do the legwork necessary to find out the truth of it all and use the ask the guy in the mirror method of management and decision-making.
What started me thinking about all this was an invitation recently from Autodesk to go to one of their websites. http://www.autodesk.com/products/autodesk-inventor-family/overview is a link to it. I go there and shortly after arriving this pops up.
Can you imagine actually asking what a reader wants to see and thinks about the site? Well if I was interested in getting more customers and viewers I sure can. But then I like things to grow and thrive and I care what potential users think about SE and Siemens. Apparently customer desires, inputs and requests are things that frequent only the technical side of Siemens SE.
Oh, and by the way, did you notice how Autodesk did not take up the top right half of the initial page with corporate Bios and gobs and gobs of just blank nothing? Which one of you marketing PR paragons figured this was something that should be there anyway is what I want to know. Every time I see this my eyes roll back in my head. Remember the admonishment for parents some years ago that said “It’s 9:00, do you know where your children are?”. Well I think a byline to my posts from now on just might be “It’s 8:00 AM, do you know where your PR and marketing staff is?”
There is even a book that I think Sonny would have endorsed before he went bankrupt that sounds like it might be tailor made for these guys 🙂