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Posts tagged ‘Apple’

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.

dedicated to the folks at Loomis Express

April 18, 2012

fransiweinstein

With brands, like most other things, who you want to be and who you are, are sometimes very different.

It’s human nature.  We rarely see ourselves as we really are.  We prefer to see ourselves as we’d like to be:  20 pounds lighter, 10 years younger, with a full head of hair, more attractive to the opposite sex, blah blah blah.  The same can be said for CEOs, CMOs and the like — as it relates to how they want their companies and their brands to be perceived:  Client centric (all about the customer experience in today’s parlance), innovative, nimble, approachable, likeable, blah blah blah.

But whether you’re looking at yourself in the mirror, visualizing a hot blonde in a mini skirt instead of a plump matron in a Hilary Clintonesque pant suit, or you’re a head honcho briefing the agency, wishing does not make it so!!

What I am talking about is ‘authentic’ brands.  The real thing.

Like Apple.  Yes, they are innovative.  Yes, they are all about the customer experience.  Yes, they are friendly.  Yes, they do make it really simple to use and enjoy their products.  Yes, they are insanely great.  At all of the above — and at customer service and problem resolution and anything else you might think of.  And yes, their advertising totally reflects their philosophy, their products, their commitment, their passion, blah blah blah.

Unfortunately there aren’t many Apples.

Think of the companies you do business with.  Who’s your wireless provider?  Who’s your telco?  Where do you bank?  What soap do you use?  What cereal do you eat?  Now think of their advertising.  Do you think it’s consistent with your experience with that company or brand?

Okay, while you’re re-running commercials in your head I’m going to tell you a story:

It’s tax time.  For many good reasons despite the fact that I’ve lived in Toronto since 1985 I still have an accountant in Montreal.  This past Monday (April 16) I was ready to send him all my tax stuff.  Because I wanted to give him as much time as possible (April 30 is fast approaching), I decided to send it overnight courier.  Usually I use FedEx or UPS, but on Monday I was rushing to get to a client’s office for a meeting.  On my way I passed a business supply store and thought:  “Hmmm, wonder if they have a courier depot in there.”  Some of them, like Staples, do.

Sure enough they did.  DHL (for overseas) and Loomis for domestic.  I arranged for, and paid for, overnight service with delivery before noon the next day.

I have to admit there were a couple of times during the transaction where that inner voice we often pay no attention to, was whispering in my ear.  But I ignored it.  So when I got home at around 5:30 I decided to go online and track my shipment — to see if it had actually been picked up from the store.  The url the guy in the store had given me was wrong.  So I called the store and was given an 800 number to call.

Here’s where the brand part comes in:

While I was on hold for 25 minutes (before I hung up) I was forced to listen to what I can only describe as ‘commercials’:  “Receive your shipment on time for your afternoon meeting”.  “Reliable service door-to-door”.  “Attention and careful handling”.

  • I called 3 times.  Each time I was on hold for at least 25 minutes before I hung up.
  • I finally figured out the correct url and on Tuesday went online 5 times to try and track my shipment.  The only information available was that the package was picked up from the store.  I called my accountant at 5:30 and he had not received it.
  • I called the 800 number and was on hold for 20 minutes before I hung up.
  • I called the store.  They called somebody and called me back with a reference number and an assurance that a ‘tracer’ had been put on the shipment.  I was also assured I’d be called within 4 business hours with news.
  • It is now Wednesday.  I went online this morning and this time instead of tracking by the waybill number I tried to track by the reference number.  No such number existed.  So then I tried the waybill number.  Same info as Tuesday.
  • I called the 800 number.  Definitely getting tired of their commercials that promise all that good stuff.  Thankfully I was only on hold about 10 minutes this time.
  • Told the rep my sad tale of woe.  Was told that the individual who was tracing my shipment would not be in for another 20 minutes.  I left my number.  65 minutes later he called me.  Asked for Monica.  Despite the fact that he was looking at a paperwork that had my name on it, he couldn’t get my name straight. That did not bode well for my package.
  • About 30 minutes later another ‘tracer’ person called me.  She asked for Ivan.  Seems she couldn’t get my name straight either.

Attention and careful handling?  Reliable service?  Are you kidding me?  But there’s more:

  • ‘Tracer’ person #1 assured me he would call me throughout the day to check in, even if he had no news.
  • At 2:30, having not heard from anyone, I called him and left a message.
  • At 3:30, I blocked the caller I.D. on my phone and called back.  Lo and behold he answered.  No news.  No information either because he informed me that his supervisor had taken over the case.  Probably because I told them I’d be giving them a free ad campaign on social media if they didn’t find my shipment — pronto.  Canada Revenue isn’t going to cut me any slack because Loomis lost my receipts.
  • Oh yes, ‘Tracer #1 also told me that they couldn’t do a thorough search of their facility because they didn’t have enough staff available; and they’d have to wait until they had more staff.  When might that be?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Attention and careful handling?  Reliable service?

What do you think?  Does Loomis Express have an authentic brand?  (Still haven’t heard a word, by the way.  It is now 5:20 on Wednesday).

it’s about the customer. The customer. The customer. Got that??

December 12, 2011

fransiweinstein

Last week Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO, was in town and speaking at the Rotman School of Management.  Being a huge fan, I went.  For those of you who have no idea who or what I’m talking about IDEO, a global consultancy, is ranked among the ten most innovative companies in the world.  Their client list, which reads like the Who’s Who of brands, includes Apple, Microsoft, PepsiCo, P&G and Steelcase, to name just a few.

Of all the many interesting things he talked about in the 60-odd minutes he had, one of the most memorable — for me — was when he took us through a project IDEO worked on, for the Singapore government — and, more specifically, the ‘user experience blueprint’ that was  at the very heart of the assignment — which was to simplify the process visitors to the country who need work permits go through.

It was absolutely brilliant.  Simple.  Logical.  And I’m sure, in much the same way I was, everyone else who was sitting in that auditorium was also wondering why the process wasn’t designed this way in the first place.

This is definitely an over-simplification of a very disciplined, methodical and strategic exercise but, you could say, that what a user experience blueprint does is help executives or planners or immigration officials or whomever the client is, put themselves in their customers’ shoes.  Experience what they experience when they need to avail themselves of your product, service, facility, etc.

In this particular case, a cameraman followed a girl from the airport (where she’d recently gotten off a plane) to the building where work permits are issued … through the front door, through the lobby, through the system.  A tourist — tired — jet lagged — alone –intimidated — in a foreign country — looking at a foreign language — not knowing where to go, what to do, how to do it, who to ask.  Finally, watching someone ahead of her going through the process and copying what she did — not knowing whether it was the right thing or not — but at that moment, it was her only alternative.

Sounds simple now.  Sounds logical now.  But it was done wrong for years and years and years.

And this is not an isolated case.  There are similar scenarios everywhere you turn, in every corner of the world.  Think about it:

  • If corporate executives put themselves in our place and ‘experienced’  their complicated IVR systems like we do, do you think we’d be forced to spend upwards of 10 minutes pressing 1 for this, or 2 for that, or 5 for something else every time we wanted information, technical support, accounting, sales, repair or service?
  • If taxi cab fleet owners tried their own service and were put on hold for 10 minutes every time they wanted a cab, then waited 20 minutes or so for one to actually show up, and then got into a filthy, smelly wreck of a car that had no shock absorbers left, that was driven by a driver who had no idea where he was going and who also never got off his cell phone — how long do you think it would take before improvements were made?
  • Do department store management ever shop in their own stores?  Do they ever wander around aimlessly, schlepping hangers and hangers full of clothes looking for a sales associate to help  – or help you find a fitting room?  Do they then wander around from empty service desk to empty service desk trying to look for a cash register that has an employee there who can ring up your purchases?
  • And what about tourists to the cities we live in.  What happens to them when they get off their planes?  Are we making them feel welcome?  Is it easy for them to find their way through the airport?  To transportation?  To their final destinations?  Can they find their way as they try to navigate through our city?  How easy is the subway for someone who comes from a foreign country? Could we be doing a better job?

The obvious is clearly not always obvious, is it?

I do have something cool to share, though.  I volunteer at Mt. Sinai Hospital.  Last summer I was asked to help with some research they were conducting.  We were asked to intercept visitors and patients as they made their way around the hospital.  Why?  Because the administration wanted to know whether these folks felt it was easy or confusing to get around.  Was it easy or difficult to find the clinics, doctors or patients they were looking for?  Especially as it related to those for whom English is a second language.  What could we do to make it easier for them?

I say “Wow”!  As if the business of saving lives isn’t enough, this management team care about all aspects of the ‘user experience’.When you think about it, it’s not really that hard to imagine what your users go through.  You just have to want to.

As for me, I want to work with IDEO.

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