What’s Your Self-Cleaning Toilet?

Ashley McKee

June 18th, 2007

Have your expectations of something ever been so low that they have nowhere to go but up? While I was on my recent trip in Europe, I stopped at a rest area in Germany and found this nifty toilet in the bathroom.

Self-cleaning toilet

It didn’t look like much at first, but then I noticed the blue and white hand sensor on the top. I waved my hand over the sensor, and the toilet seat started rotating under the blue arm that extended out a few inches. The arm let out a stream of cleaner and also “squeegeed” the seat as it rotated. The same thing also happened when you flushed. How cool is that? Functional, sanitary, and unordinary. I also wasn’t so annoyed about having to pay 50 Euro cents to use it.

The rest of the folks on my tour talked about these toilets for the rest of the day. Normally you wouldn’t give toilets a second thought, or care much about them. Let’s face it, using an ordinary toilet isn’t very thrilling. They all work the same and accomplish the same goals. But, this extra feature gave the experience a touch of excitement.

Customer/User expectations and homogenous products are two things marketers, designers, and development teams can use to their advantage when creating new goods, services, and experiences…or revamping old ones. By gauging customers’ expectations and transforming homogenous products to include new features, marketers and designers and can take a step beyond the ordinary and offer a pleasant surprise.

So, what is your self-cleaning toilet? How are you satisfying your customers’ needs for delight?

5 Responses to “What’s Your Self-Cleaning Toilet?”

  1. Angus Says:

    While this a great point in general, sometimes these kinds of fancy features can come back to bite you. Case in point:

    A few years ago my city introduced similar “self-cleaning” toilets with great fanfare. The sales people no doubt did a great job of impressing them with the neat features, and convinced them they could skimp on ordinary ongoing cleaning costs.

    Five years later the toilets are all broken and filthy, far worse than any “normal” toilet would ever be. Customers are delighted no longer…

  2. Ashley McKee Says:

    This sounds like a case for a good lesson in managing post-purchase relationships.

  3. Kevin C Says:

    Here’s the commercial for it. Pretty funny.

  4. Allan H Says:

    Rule: function follows form.

    It is also why the platypus is NOT the dominant species on this planet.

    When the energy to support a system is greater than the benefit, the system will die.

    Toilet paper and paper seat covers and a “daily cleaning” of the seat by the person who resupplies the paper is less complicated than refilling the chemicals in the Self-Cleaning toilet or maintaining its mechanics. (I actually put toilet paper ON the seat even if there is a paper seat cover available since it is faster and simpler, regardless of being less expensive.)

    It is similar to Occam’s Razor but so obvious that most people don’t understand it.

    “New” and “better” only survive if they are simpler and less expensive.

    Example: do a search on the Nimslo camera that used to be made in Atlanta.
    “Nimslo” ought to be a verb.

  5. Maria Rubio Says:

    I took my kids to the recently renovated Boston Children’s Museum this past weekend and used one of the restrooms in the first floor.
    The toilet looked just as a regular toilet so after using it I pushed down the handle to flush (just as you do on a regular toilet).
    Just one second after doing this, I notice the note near the handle that instructed the user to pull the handle UP to use less water (if the residue is just liquid) or push it DOWN to use more water (if solids were deposited.)
    I see and applaud the designers’ intention of promoting conservation of a natural resource. But it seems to me that they failed in taking advantage of the common knowledge from decades of using the same toilet design.
    I believe, when using a regular toilet, most of us push the handle DOWN to flush (whatever the form of the residue we leave) so by default we’re going to flush this toilet by pushing down, and by doing so use more water every time, without stopping to read the instructions on the wall.
    So unless there’s a functional reason why not doing it, I would think they could get better results if they invert the functionality (pull to use more water; push to use less.)

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