MIDNIGHT AT THE OASIS – DAY 15 OF A 30 DAY BLOG (RANT?)
There is no better way for a software company to understand how useful its software is than if it uses its software itself.
In February 1996 we bought a newsagency. For people reading this outside Australia I’d note that a newsagency typically is a retail business (newspapers, magazines, greeting cards, stationery and lottery products) and a distribution business (home delivery of newspapers and magazines) and a wholesale business (newspapers and magazines sold to resellers).
Anyway, we bought our newsagency in February 1996 and still own it today. It’s a live experiment in the value of our software.
We experience behind our counter what our clients experience.
In fact, it continues to change our view of the world.
All of our employees spend time at the newsagency every year – it is also the entry point for everyone working for the company since it helps them understand our software from a client perspective.
For a year after I bought the business I kicked myself for being stupid. The cash flow drain was enormous as we came to grips with account ting processes (from suppliers) from the dark ages. The manager of the business was the hero who kept everything together and laid the foundation for what is today an exceptional retail business.
We’re lucky because not only is our retail newsagency a live place for us to experiment with our software but it is also a place where we can forget IT for a while and play shop – that was always a fun game when growing up. But this shop is no lemonade stand. It’s busy seven days a week. You can see photos here.
Now, since we have started focusing on the Oasis strategy – our goal for exceptional customer service – the newsagency has become a place where we can feel our customer feelings first hand and tweak our IT support and software offerings so that they continue to improve. It also provides us with the ability to measure consumer interaction with our point of sale technology and this is crucial as so many times in IT we get it wrong by focusing on sexy technology to the detriment of the user and or consumer experience.
Since we began our journey toward Oasis experiences for our clients, employees and those touched by these folks, our retail business has become a more important playground for us. The changes have been dramatic. Most important, it has allowed us to make mistakes without hurting too many paying customers. Our software has changed as we have focused more and more on the consumer experience.
It gives us an unfair advantage and we love it!
Mistakes still get out to our wider user community but nothing earth shattering – thanks to us spending time standing in the shoes of our customers.
For those new here, this Oasis thing we talk of is the desire to provide an employee, customer and supplier experience which is so exceptional that you rave about it to your friends. It begins with the workplace – making it somewhere people want to work and ends with customers wanting to come back to your business and wanting to spend money.