The Association of small- to medium-sized system builders had created numerous schemes to make its members feel that it was playing an important role in enhancing their status and reputation in the marketplace.
Over the years, it had organised specific trade shows on its members’ behalf, planned industry awards in which its members were presented with Oscar-like statues for their efforts, and brought together industry experts from the companies to define new industry standards.
And that was important, especially because of the sizeable amounts of cash that The Association charged them to become members of the organisation in the first place.
But when the head of The Association retired, and a new manager was brought in to bring new life to the organisation, he decided that – while all the previous activities had certainly been meritorious – he needed a new idea to excite his members.
After some careful thought, the new manager realised that one way he could help the companies he represented would be to provide their customers with a quick way to assess the members’ expertise, obviating the need for the customers to become involved in endless preliminary telephone calls or personal meetings with them to perform the same function.
When he proposed the idea to the membership, it was received with enthusiasm. The larger organisations saw the idea as a means to demonstrate their prowess in solving a wide range of systems integration issues, while the smaller, more specialised outfits believed that it might prove a quick means by which they could weed out irrelevant enquiries.
But while the idea might have been sound enough, the implementation was less than satisfactory. To assess the capabilities of each of the members of The Association, the new manager sent them all a lengthy technical questionnaire, the results of which he used to categorise their expertise at developing specific types of systems by matching the names of their companies to an extensive colour-coding scheme on The Association’s website.
Needless to say, while the companies and The Association saw the service as a valuable one, the customers were all a little bewildered by the elaborate nature of the colour-coding scheme. Simply put, there were far too many colours and the document that defined their meaning stretched to 10 pages on the website – 10 pages more than most of the companies’ customers could be bothered to read.
Of course, The Association and many of its members didn’t see the problem. In fact, most of the members believed that The Association had performed an excellent job on its behalf, helping their customers to understand their capabilities more thoroughly.
And they are still happy to pay the exorbitant membership fees each year that will undoubtedly allow the very same organisation to develop yet more ‘innovative’ ideas on their behalf in the future.
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