Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Promoting Lies

There's an interesting article in today's New York Times about the on-time performance of the area's commuter trains. After hearing claims of 96% on-time arrivals by the railroads, the Times decided to do some investigative work.

First of all, on time doesn't mean on schedule. A train is considered on time if it arrives within 5 minutes and 59 seconds of the scheduled arrival time. So a train could be nearly 6 minutes late and still be considered on time.

Second, since peak trains run behind schedule more often than non-peak, the impact on riders is much greater than the statistic implies. Given that only 68% of New Jersey Transit trains arrive on schedule (with 94% arriving 'on time'), and most of those delays are during peak time, it's likely that over 50% of the system's riders experience a late arrival on a regular basis. No wonder most people have a negative impression of the performance of their commute.

What does this have to do with advertising and product development?

The way you keep track of your product's performance may not be how your customers do. Find out what's important to them and measure that. Improve your product based on their needs, not some legacy system that's been in place for decades. Six minutes late may have been acceptable with a generation that had analog watches and no cell phones. But as times change, so do expectations. 

If you're not getting ahead, you're running late.

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