Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Swingline and the Empty Stapler

Recently I started my new job, and as part of those early first days, I was involved in the usual activities - orientation, HR forms, understanding where the coffee machines and bathrooms were located, obtaining all of my access information, and the like.  It is a whirlwind, and while it feels so non-productive, it is necessary.

Part of the process is arming oneself with the appropriate office supplies.  Toward this end, folks in my office did me the favor of providing me with a brand-spanking new Swingline model stapler.   Via its prominent feature in the movie Office Space, we all know the Swingline brand.  In fact, in terms of product placement, one would be hard pressed to find a brand that had been better served by such a vehicle:

Ultimately, as part of my work, the need to staple something arose, and I gleefully set about opening up my very own, brand new Swingline stapler.  What a great "Milton" moment!  This was going to be awesome.

Unfortunately, it wasn't awesome.  Not all all.  Swingline made the decision to sell the stapler without any staples.  I was left with a stapler as completely useless to me as if Lumbergh himself had absconded with it.

Why would Swingline do that?  Of course, the answer is that they want to sell more staples - I get it.  But why put their customer into a lousy situation (basically, the only reason one would open a new stapler is because one has the need to use it)?  Even just providing a token amount of staples to start would have been nice balance between taking care of the customer and selling staples.

Beyond that, what if they did actually provide the staples, and also provided a coupon for the order of a quirky Swingline t-shirt.  Would I have bought one?  Depending on the snark factor of the shirt, in all probability I would have.

While I get that this rant is about something as mundane as a stapler, it serves as a great metaphor to what we are delivering to our customers every day.  Are we providing them with everything they need, or do we hold things back because it's "good for us?"  Do we recognize that our touch points are finite, and do we take as much advantage of them as we can to cement our brand with our customers?  Likewise, do we look for opportunities outside of the traditional that allow our customers to actually celebrate doing business with us?

You blew it, Swingline.  Yeah, you won.  I'll ultimately buy the staples and will use your stapler, but I would have appreciated avoiding the hassle of doing so. In the meantime, your product will sit on my desk; useless to me as little more than a paperweight.

And I really, really would have loved the t-shirt.

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