What would happen if an airline decided that it would no longer accept print-at-home boarding passes, and that everyone would have to go with the fully digital option?
Would some customers miss flights? Maybe.
Would there suddenly be very long lines of very frustrated customers at that airline's customer service desk at the airport? Probably.
Would some of the affected customers defect to another airline for future flights? Most likely.
Imposing a fully-digital process on a customer base that's not fully ready for it can cause pain and problems for the business and its customers. But that's what the New York Yankees did at the start of the 2016 baseball season.
According to a June 12 New York Times article by Billy Witz, "When the Yankees announced that they were overhauling their ticketing system this season — introducing mobile ticketing and no longer accepting print-at-home tickets — they said it was to enhance the fan experience.
"But that has hardly been the case for the fans camped out at the Yankee Stadium customer service window before each game, having been unable to get into the ballpark because of a problem with the tickets on their phones or turned away at the gate with tickets they printed at home or at work."
Here's the point:
Know your customer. Had the Yankees done some research on their fan base to understand the percentage of fans that were willing and able to go to an all-digital ticketing system, they would have realized that all fans were not ready.
Implement a transition plan.
Create a method to accommodate fans with varying digital appetites: For example, the Yankees could have taken a page from the play book of the many toll highways in and around New York: While transitioning to all-digital, some lanes still accepted cash. Many of the those highways have since become "Cashless," but only after customers had adequate time to transition.
Going digital drives down business operating costs, so the ROI can be attractive. But before jumping in 100%, it's critical to understand how the change will impact the customer experience, because frustrated customers can destroy that ROI pretty quickly.
When going digital, take time to understand your customers' appetite and ability to make the change with you, and execute accordingly.
Have you ever thought about what causes you to buy so much from one company, when there are plenty of others to choose from?
I buy a LOT of books from Amazon. So the other day, I looked at my purchase history of books, and found something interesting:
I bought about 30 books last year. 20 of the books were titles that I planned to purchase, before I logged onto Amazon.com. The other 10 books were recommended to me by Amazon's recommendation engine, which combines my order history with those of other customers who've made similar purchases.
In other words, Amazon was able to increase sales to me by 50%, because they use technology to build personalization into their standard sales process.
Standardization and Personalization are two competing forces for most businesses. Businesses want to personalize, but they have to standardize. Standardization is the engine for rapid growth. When you standardize a process, you can repeat that process, and repeat it at a lower cost. Modern manufacturing has been built on the principles of standardization.
But standardization, by definition, precludes differentiation. And Differentiation is at the heart of personalization. Amazon recommends different books to me than to my wife, because it understands our unique prefereces; it understands our preferential differences, and it builds those differences into their standard processes of presenting, and ordering books, and it does this through technology.
In the majority of businesses, technology is used primarily to automate standardized processes; ordering, manufacturing and billing.
The more successful business also use technology to understand their customers's preferences, but do so in separate "siloed" systems.
The most successful companies will build customer understanding and personalization into the same business processes accross systems.
Where does your company fall along the Standardization vs. Personalization spectrum? What companies can you identify, that have figured out how to combine both?
Sometimes, less experience is a better experience.
As customers, we want things to be easy. When we buy a product or service, we're ultimately purchasing the value that we receive by using that product or service. That means not having to go through a lot of steps or procedures to get to that point of value.
Later today, I'll be flying to Chicago. And whenever I fly, I like to be checked in before I arrive at the airport. That means fewer steps at the airport; an easier process. So like a lot of travelers, before leaving my home or office, I'll log into my computer or smart phone, go to the airline's website, go through the on-line check-in process, and print my boarding pass. It's a lot easier than waiting in line at the airport, but it's still something that I need to remember to do; it requires initiative.
Yesterday afternoon, about 24 hours before today's scheduled flight, I was sitting on a sofa at home, when my cell phone rang. It was an automated agent from United Airlines, offering to check me in for today's flight. I answered a couple quick questions, and I was checked in. I never left the comfort or convenience of my sofa. I didn't have to remember to check in. I didn't have
The point is this:
Find ways to make life easier for your customer, by reducing the number of steps that the customer must go through, to get to the value that they're ultimately buying. Checking-in before you get on the airplane adds no value; but it's something that has to happen. United made my life easier, by removing steps between the purchase, and the value received.
How many steps does your customer need to endure, before they get to the point of receiving value from your product? Which of those steps can you remove, or at least make a lot easier for your customer?
It’s fascinating to see how people lived two hundred years ago.
The McLellan House in Portland, Maine was originally built by a shipping magnate in 1801. Through the efforts of the Portland Museum or Art, the McLellan House has been preserved as a wonderful place to learn about 19th century architecture and design. It's also a great place to learn how QR codes can deliver a better customer experience.
This past Friday night, my wife and I joined some friends in touring the house, and this was far more than a walk through. While there were no tour guides within the house, we came away from the tour having enjoyed a complete room-by-room learning experience.
What made the experience so fulfilling was the way that QR codes were placed surreptiously throughout the building; in many rooms and hallways, and on artifacts inside this stately mansion. The QR codes are used in an innovative way to enrich each patron’s experience, by delivering short contextual videos throughout the tour. Among them are a video of a master woodworker restoring the flying staircase (shown at left), and the creation of a painted floor cloth.
Like most consumers, I’ve become accustomed to seeing QR codes printed in magazine advertisements, as a direct link to a webpage, and as a way to draw the reader farther into lead qualification, or a sales process.
The Portland Museum of Art uses QR codes in an entirely different way; not to sell, but to serve; to serve their patrons with a richer, higher quality experience while touring an exhibit. This is in fact something that any business can do; using QR codes to deepen customer touch-points in a way to enrich the customers’ experience, and ultimately build customer loyalty.
So, how can you put QR codes to work in your business, in ways that will delight your customers, so that they tell more people about you? Think of the various high-traffic touch-points between your company and your customers, and then think about how live videos might enhance that touch-point.
For example, if you sell products that require assembly, consider printing a QR code on the front page of the assembly instructions. Your customer can take a picture of the code with his smart phone, and be brought directly to an on-line video that shows the customer how to assemble the product. That would be a lot easier for the customer to follow, than small-font text, wouldn’t it?
Check out this list to learn about some of the cool ways that others have used QR codes. Then think how you can do something similar for your customers.
If QR codes can tell the story of a 200-year old building, just think how they can create a rich history for your business.