At work the other day, I had the opportunity to try a commercial Electrolux vacuum. My students decided to go crazy with the glitter during a craft project. Two- and three-year-olds unsupervised with a glitter jar is just an accident waiting to happen. In our case, it actually did. After journeying to a dank supply closet, full of dusty appliances, I retrieved a Electrolux Sanitaire Commercial Bagstyle Upright Vac.
At first glance, the vacuum looked like a simple, dated appliance. I figured that it would help me get the job done quickly and efficiently. Boy, I was in for a surprise. After plugging the appliance into an outlet, I began my endeavor to find the power button.
I looked at the top towards the handle. No luck. I found the front knob. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the front knob was for incline height. I then began to look towards the back. I thought their might be a pedal or hidden button to turn the appliance on.
After a few minutes, I began to wonder if the vacuum may have been created for someone with a higher intelligence. I don’t think I’m a genius but I just couldn’t allow myself to believe that this vacuum was made for someone who graduated with a Ph.D. Many people who hold custodial positions tend to have a high school education or lower. Very few have bachelors’ degrees. So it begs the question: when Electrolux created this product, who did they imagine their consumers were going to be?
If Electrolux had done their research, they would’ve found out that many consumers are:
Business owners. Some of their business consumers own companies that have other purposes besides cleaning, and they have a cleaning crew. Others operate cleaning businesses that work for other businesses or residents. They tend to hire employees that have high school degrees or lower. (Due to the current economy, there are a few employees at each company that may have a bachelors or higher.) These same companies may have high turnover rates due to the aforementioned and other factors. Putting time and money into training every employee on how to use every appliance on the job is costly, and some cannot afford it. They need reliable equipment that is easy to use and operate. Once you get the vacuum turned on, it hits these points. That is the problem: getting it to turn on.
Homeowners. Homeowners that have larger homes with rooms that have a large square footage. They may purchase it in hopes of completing the chore of cleaning quickly and efficiently. They don’t have time to try to get into every nook or cranny with every hose accessory known to man. They may not even clean their house. In some instances, they have hired help attend to cleaning the humble abode. In the US, many maids and butlers don’t bachelors degrees or specialized homemaker degrees. ( I cannot speak for the UK, since I do not reside there. I don’t want to assume that many large households still function like Downton Abbey.) Many residential employees probably fall into the same category as the aforementioned business owners. Enough said.
Women of the household or homemakers. Many of these consumers are stay-at-home moms. They must clean the house and attend to daily tasks while the children are out, or are busy. In some situations these homemakers have one or two staff employees, like maid or nanny that comes to the home a couple of times a week. In many instances, they do not, and they must complete the work within allotted amount of time. These women don’t have much time to spare between soccer games, PTO meetings, and school fundraisers. They have to schedule time to raise and spend time with their kids. They may even have their own part time or seasonal job. Their time is precious. They don’t have ten or fifteen minutes to find a power button on a vacuum. They want to go to an appliance that operates like most other mainstream appliances. In the case of this commercial vacuum, Electrolux would’ve quickly lost this consumer. She would probably return the appliance to a neighborhood store. She would probably make the time to write a bad review about the appliance.
After that, what was my outcome?
After ten minutes of examining every inch of the appliance, I found the power button at the side. It was a large black button disguised in the design of the product. At first glance, one would assume it was there for decoration. After many frustrating attempts, I decided that I would push the button. If this had not worked, I probably would’ve resorted back to the old-fashioned model for a mess: broom and dustpan. After turning on the vacuum, it completed the job efficiently. Many consumers wouldn’t have made it as far as I did. Case in point, a few weeks prior, a fellow employee was trying to clean a rug after her students decorated it with crumbs. After two minutes, she went to the school director and asked her how to turn it on. The director came to the room and turned it on for her. After the completion of the job, she went back to the director and asked her how to turn it off. Now, she tends to avoid vacuuming for all purposes at our school. She speaks badly of the appliance when ever asked about it.
Poor Electrolux. Two prospective consumers lost after a test run with a poorly targeted product. I haven’t given up yet, but the next Electrolux product that I try will really need to knock my socks off.
UPDATE: After a little research, I found that the Swedish company had allowed engineers to manage every aspect of development until 2006. In 2006, the CEO (at that time), Hans Straberg decided to bring sales representatives, designers and marketers into the development process. He started a new development model for the company. He decided to stop sending out surveys to consumers, and start going into consumers’ homes to find out how they used the product. From there, they came out with a new line of products. That’s how we got many of the Kelly Ripa commercials with the Bewitched theme song. Thank you, Hans Straberg for seeing the problem and fixing it.
Source: Business Week