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Posts from the ‘customer experience’ Category

why I think something’s wrong with this picture

August 26, 2012

fransiweinstein

This past Friday a friend of mine, a former colleague from my Ogilvy days, posted a New York Times article from August 18 on his Facebook timeline.  Written by Alex Stone, it talks about how irate customers get when they are forced to wait in line, why it’s such a sore point and how some companies are dealing with it.

It’s a great article and, at first blush, my overall impression was that he had found some organizations who were being rather innovative.

For example, when executives at a Houston airport received tons of complaints about the length of time it took to claim luggage they decided to analyze the situation.  They learned that it took passengers less time to walk to the baggage claim area, then it did for their luggage to make it to the carousel, and into their hands.  Which, in turn, made the time these passengers had to wait for their bags seem that much longer than it really was.

So what was their solution?  They moved the arrival gate further away from the terminal.  Therefore it took passengers longer to get to the baggage claim area.  Which, in turn, made the wait time for their baggage seem negligible.

It worked.  Apparently complaints dropped to near zero.

Mr. Stone sites several other examples that make for interesting reading, but you should read his piece for yourself.  So why did I say “at first blush I thought these companies were coming up with innovative solutions”?

Think about it from the passengers’ perspective.  Traveling’s not nearly the fun it used to be.  Even a short trip becomes a long trip when you factor in the time it takes to get to the airport, check in and leave enough time for security.  So if you’re on an 8:00 a.m. domestic flight and live 40 minutes from the airport, you could be leaving your house at 5:00 or 5:30 in the morning.  If you’re slow, like I am, in the morning, your alarm would be going off at 4:00 or 4:30 a..m.  So a 2-hour flight is really eating up 5 hours of your time — before you land at your destination.  Let’s not even discuss the hassles there always are with luggage, how long it takes for everybody to board and get settled and the fact that, rarely, do planes leave on time.

So you have finally landed.  Safely.  You’re hot, tired, thirsty and hungry.  All you want to do is get your bags and get home — or to your hotel.  But now you have a considerably longer walk ahead of you than you did in the past.  All because those good folks at the Houston Airport were tired of fielding all those complaints and, instead of thinking things through strategically … instead of thinking of the customer experience … they solved a problem by creating another problem.  How customer-centric of them!

I’m not suggesting they had an easy problem to solve.  But in my opinion, their solution is not really a solution, even though complaints dropped off.  I travel.  And I hear passengers bitching and moaning about how long the walks are in airports.  All airports.  We may not write angry letters about it, because we probably don’t think there’s anything anyone can do about it, but that doesn’t mean we like it.  It doesn’t mean the ‘experience’ is good.  And it does mean that next time, we may consider taking the train or driving instead of flying, should that be a possibility.

Okay, so now let’s talk about what a great customer experience looks like.

Different industry.  Different challenge.  Different opportunity.  But the most significant difference is that in this company, the executives are 100% about maximizing the customer experience:

Buy anything in an Apple store.  You don’t have to stand in line to pay.  Any member of their staff can cash you out, anywhere you happen to be in that store.  No lines.  No waiting.  How brilliant is that; and on how many levels?  Well, for one thing, if they want you to “think different” it’s really nice to know that they do, too.  It proves that they understand, and appreciate, that their customers are excited to buy their products.  And they can’t wait to get home to play with them.  So their entire retail experience — not just the paying part — is designed to let you do that.  From beginning to end.  From the greeters, to the experts, to the genius bar, to the classes you can take that make you smarter about what you’ve just bought.

But they’ve also improved their own efficiency.  Now they don’t have a bunch of disengaged cashiers, just staring into space, while they wait for the next credit card carrying customer.  Instead they have motivated, engaged, enthusiastic, ‘facilitators’ whose sole purpose is to make sure that every individual who walks into a store, leaves that same store as a happy customer.

Because they know that every time someone walks into an Apple store, it is an opportunity for that customer to renew his or her vows with the brand.

Houston.  We have a problem.

does anyone care about what I want?

November 20, 2011

fransiweinstein

Don’t worry.  I’m not expecting you to answer.  It’s a rhetorical question — and I’m only putting it out there because ‘customer experience’ is being bandied about quite a bit these days (including by yours truly); and, when I think about my own customer experiences I automatically think about whether or not they deliver what I’m looking for.

And I’m not just referring to the quality of customer service that comes with those relationships — which is where you might think I’m headed.  What I’m talking about is a much bigger, more challenging issue — and I alluded to it in my last post.  What I’m talking about are sellers and providers of anything and everything, who base their offerings on customers’ needs and preferences — not simply their own — individuals who also think, not only of benefitting themselves and the companies and organizations they work for, but society in general.

That’s what I want.

It’s a tall order, I know, but I truly believe it is the only way we’ll succeed — or even survive — going forward.  Regardless of whether you’re employed in the public or private sector.

So now let’s get more specific about some of the things I think about when I should probably be working on my latest project, my filing (which I loathe doing and is, therefore, piling up on every available surface), or even worse — laundry:

Neither the manager or staff at the grocery store where I do a lot of my shopping have ever asked me what I want (even when I’m wandering up and down the aisles looking confused because I don’t know where they’ve moved the crackers) — so I’m going to take this opportunity to tell them.

I would love to know how much food they throw away every week.  I ask because the food banks — and thank God for them — can’t accommodate perishable items.  So wouldn’t it be great if a large, warehouse type space was made available — it was outfitted with some refrigerated units (also donated) — and instead of throwing perfectly good food away, it was given to those people who currently depend on the food banks, and are currently able to eat only the staples that come in cans, tins and cartons.  It wouldn’t replace the food banks — it would just enhance what they could offer.

What are you willing to bet that if I went to the head office of any grocery store operating in this country with this idea I’d get at least 5 reasons why it can’t be done.  And I’ll bet you that if they assembled a diverse group of people who could have a role in this initiative — and if they were prepared to dig deep and think differently — we could find a way to execute at least something close to this idea.

This is something I want.  It would make me feel better about the food I am buying.  It would make me feel better about the grocery store where I shop.  It would make me feel better knowing all this food wasn’t going to waste.  And it would make me feel a lot better about what the less fortunate members of our society are eating, and what a positive effect it could have on other aspects of their lives.

Let’s move on.  Now I’d like to tell my bank what I’d like.  Relax — you don’t have to send the kids out of the room.  There’ll be no swearing.  It’s a simple, little request actually:

Have you ever wondered why, as long as you don’t exceed your credit limit, you are free to charge whatever you’d like to your credit card?  Well … I’d prefer to do that with my debit card.  If I have enough money in my account to pay for a $5,000 holiday with my debit card — cash, in other words — my cash — why can’t I?   Wouldn’t you think that whatever means banks use to ‘approve’ your credit card purchases while you’re standing at a cash register, should be transferable to debit card purchases.  So why isn’t it?  Is it merely that they’ve never thought about it themselves.  Is it because they’ve never asked their customers what they want?

Could it be that they (bank honchos) prefer it when — human nature being what it is — even though you told yourself you’d pay your credit card off as soon as you get the bill, you don’t — and they get to charge you interest?  But isn’t that short term thinking?  If you weren’t drowning in credit card debt, you’d potentially have more money — to invest (with them).  For a mortgage (with them).  For a bigger mortgage (with them).  You’d be more credit-worthy (which you’d think they’d like).  They wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not you might, one day, lose your job and be unable to pay off your credit card debt — leaving them holding the bag.

There’s a lot more on my mind, but I think I’ve done enough talking for a while.  What are some of the things you want?

 

don’t know what to think about this

November 19, 2011

fransiweinstein

Last weekend a client sent me a link to a blog on Forbes.  “The CMO:  Dead Men Walking” by Paul Magnone.  I have read it a dozen times and I’m still not sure what his point is.

He started off by saying that in IBM’s recently-released Global CMO Study 71% reported that they’re underprepared for the “Data Explosion.”  He didn’t go into detail.  He did, however, quickly go on to say that we now have more data available to us than ever before, but it’s not giving us much to work with — insight-wise.  No examples to help me figure out whether or not I agreed.

So correctly or incorrectly I leapt to the conclusion that a hell of a lot of CMOs are drowning in a sea of useless information — out of which, Magnone was quick to point out, they are expected to figure out how to “improve the customer experience and deliver value to empowered customers.”

Doesn’t sound like marketing’s job to me, but I’m only about half way through the blog.  It’s also very early Saturday morning, I’m still a bit groggy and I haven’t had coffee yet.

When I returned from Starbucks and started reading again I saw that we were now “following the customer’s north star” — which meant that we should be asking ourselves whether the customer actually wants the product or message we’re giving them.  Or are we selfishly giving them what we want?

Well, this is a subject that is very close to my heart.  But worrying about the message after it’s been delivered is a bit like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.  Which could explain why Paul Magnone thinks that CMOs are dead men walking.  As for the product not being relevant (which is essentially what he’s saying here), even after a low fat Grande Latte I still don’t think it’s marketing’s problem.  So maybe the CEO should really be the dead man (walking or not) because it looks to me like he’s trying to pass the buck.

Frankly, I’ve long believed that it’s not uncommon for a client to expect an advertising campaign  to solve a problem that it couldn’t solve.  What actually needed fixing could have been the product or service they were selling or the lack of customer service they were delivering.

But despite what I think, as best I can tell, it is Paul Mangone’s contention that CMOs days are numbered unless they take the lead — not just when it concerns marketing, but also when a major business decision is being considered.  That it should be the responsibility of the CMO to ensure that the product, sales, distribution and legal teams are driven by the customer’s needs and wants.

Again, a subject that is very close to my heart.  But again, I do not believe this is marketing’s issue.  This must be inherent in the corporate culture.  It starts with the CEO and it has to be embraced by everyone who works for, and is connected in any way, to the company.

Paul Magnone has good credentials.  He’s VP of business development and strategic alliances at Opennet Telecom.  He’s the co-author of a book.  He worked at IBM for 21 years, where he started and grew four sales and consulting businesses.  Forbes liked what he said, because they published his blog post.

So I’m prepared to accept that I’m missing something here.   Do me a favour and check out the story; and explain to me why all this data is the kiss of death for CMOs.

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