How To Lose Our Business (Before You Even Get It).

At the Digital Summit Conference in Seattle  last year, one of the speakers gave a presentation about removing friction for the customer. He seemed obsessed with it, giving obscure examples about hair blowers and hotel check-ins. A low-friction experience makes sense though. Reduce the number of barriers in a customer’s journey, and you’ll get better results. One-click ordering from Amazon is a great example. If your goal is to get a new (or returning) customer to purchase, then make it as easy and fast as possible. The longer that path takes between first-contact and purchase, the less likely they are to complete the purchase. Or fill out a form, or give us their email address, or view a piece of content, or whatever is the desired end point of their journey. E-commerce and digital marketing pros spend entire careers testing and optimizing these customer flows. That’s half the battle, and they know it.

We operate in a different environment, however. We are manufacturers, an industry that despite the growing automation and robotics components, is still plagued by an old mindset. As we develop the tooling (creating the machines that will create our parts) for our new keystone product, we are running into friction time and time again. Currently that is revealing itself in the quoting process, where we are gathering pricing information from different vendors to see who will best help us achieve our goals, (which are not exclusively limited to price, but also timeframe, quality, etc). Here’s how that process should go:

Eteros: Hello Vendor XYZ, we are looking for a quote for tooling to create aluminum extrusion parts. The part is about 5” high, 15” long, with 1/8” wall thickness.

Vendor XYZ: Well, that would fit in a die about X size. We did one like that recently and it cost around $20,000. So I’d say it’s in the range of $17,500 to 22,500, depending on a few other variables.

Eteros: Great, thank you..

We called the vendor, asked for basic pricing information, and then received the information immediately. Sure, it’s a quote. So there’s an understanding that it might be a bit more, might be a bit less, but at least we have an idea of the ballpark price. We know it’s not going to be $1000 nor will it be $50,000. Here is how that exchange actually went. I’ll write it in a number format because it’s so much more complicated than you would ever imagine.

We called Vendor XYZ to ask about a rough quote for the die to make aluminum extrusion parts.
The salesperson refused to give us any pricing information unless we gave them drawings of the piece we wanted the molds for. We weren’t sure we wanted to use the design of a bigger extrusion, that’s why we were checking pricing, so hadn’t created drawings yet.
Our mechanical engineer had to spend hours creating designs for the parts that we would make with the dies.
We gave the salesperson the drawings.
Their internal team spent 2 days creating their own internal drawings of what the dies themselves would look like.
Their internal team had to submit their drawings to another internal team.
The second internal team determined the price was $50,000, then contacted the salesperson to relay the quote
The salesperson made a formal quote and emailed it to us.
We immediately decline, and are going to use another technique because an aluminum extrusion dies was not feasible for this particular part, too expensive.

The entire process took 6 days, dozens of emails, and many phone calls. We tied up one of our own engineers for hours, and they tied up several of their own internal staff for two days. It cost both of us time and money. The experience with this vendor was poor, and even if at some point in the future we did need a service or product they provide, we will likely seek out a different vendor because of this poor experience.

As frustrating (and sadly, common in manufacturing) as these experiences are, they reinforce our beliefs about how we want to conduct business at Eteros. Whether somebody is interested in purchasing a product, has a question, or needs technical support, we want to help them achieve their goal with as little friction as possible. It’s better for everyone, and it’s just good business.