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Set high customer expectations, but don't dash them

Friday, 3rd June 2011

I got a call out of the blue a few months ago, from a twitter contact, @MartinShovel (a highly recommended guy to follow, by the way. He'd been asked to suggest people to receive a free product, as part of the product's PR launch. The product was a new Pocket Projector by 3M, the MP180, and I was delighted to accept Martin's 'nomination' for three reasons: as a Yorkshireman, I like free stuff; as a (slightly?) geeky guy, I like new technology and toys; and I could see, from the blurb about the item that it could be potentially brilliant for my business.

A great idea

On the training programmes I run, I use presentations, and I almost always take photos or video of the programmes as part of my follow-up. I knew that the MP180 wouldn't be suitable for presenting to large groups, but I had hoped it would be really useful for taking into meetings (and pitches), loaded with some top material, that I could then easily show people. Not having to lug around and set up my main projector for simple, ad hoc, usage would have been fantastic.

Show presentations, show film, show my website and blogs. Show training course materials, show venues, show photos of delighted, engaged participants. Dynamic, colourful, high-impact sales and presentation materials in my pocket, and no more carrying around wads of paper. Perfect!

This is what the MP180 was supposed to do for me.

High expectations

I'll confess, here and now, to being an Apple fan. Nothing is perfect, but I love the ease of use of their products. I want technology to help me, and to do the basics without fuss. "Do you want to connect to X?", my Mac asks me. "Why, yes please!" I say. And X is connected. It's worked with cameras, video cameras, printers, memory and storage devices, wi-fi networks, and so on. Why wouldn't it?

It wasn't a good start. Cable connected. No sign of anything, at all. The MP180 projector was not even there as a storage device.

It got worse. I tried transferring a presentation via bluetooth. I knew it might take a while (my presentations are pretty image-heavy), but was prepared to wait. However, I didn't need to. The projector wouldn't accept a Keynote (the Apple version of PowerPoint for the uninitiated) presentation.

Ah well, I'll have a go with the "browse the internet" function. Or not. Firstly, stabbing at and dragging across a highly unresponsive screen was like going back to the dark ages; secondly, however many times I (painfully - see comment about screen) typed in my wi-fi password, it simply wouldn't connect. At all.

Come crashing down

The MP180 is on my desk, right now, charging up. But I'm not sure why I'm putting valuable electricity into it. I can't, easily, get my materials on to it. I can't, easily, use online materials with it. I can't, easily, use it for the job I would use it for.

There are many other irritating glitches too - no easy-to-find 'keystone' adjustment, so almost inevitably your material is going to be distorted; an unintuitive user interface; and, oh yes, I've just taken it off charge, the battery is completely dead, and even plugged in, it won't do anything. At all. Having to take the battery out and put it in again to get a brand new product working is really not on.

And we learn...

Some of the broader things that businesses can learn from this experience:

3M is a big, successful organisation, and we all make mistakes. I hope they learn from this one and, next time, develop one of those "WOW" products that people spontaneously rave about.

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