During the past 20 years, the real price of most consumer goods has fallen worldwide, the variety of goods and the range of sales channels offering them have continued to grow, and product quality has steadily improved. So why is consumption often so frustrating? It doesn’t have to be—and shouldn’t be—the authors say. They argue that it’s time to apply lean thinking to the processes of consumption—to give consumers the full value they want from goods and services with the greatest efficiency and the least pain.
Companies may think they save time and money by off-loading work to the consumer but, in fact, the opposite is true. By streamlining their systems for providing goods and services, and by making it easier for customers to buy and use those products and services, a growing number of companies are actually lowering costs while saving everyone time. In the process, these businesses are learning more about their customers, strengthening consumer loyalty, and attracting new customers who are defecting from less user-friendly competitors.
The challenge lies with the retailers, service providers, manufacturers, and suppliers that are not used to looking at total cost from the standpoint of the consumer and even less accustomed to working with customers to optimize the consumption process.
Lean consumption requires a fundamental shift in the way companies think about the relationship between provision and consumption, and the role their customers play in these processes. It also requires consumers to change the nature of their relationships with the companies they patronize.
Lean production has clearly triumphed over similar obstacles in recent years to become the dominant global manufacturing model. Lean consumption, its logical companion, can’t be far behind.