Taking the Mickey (Mouse) out of Queues

Ron Baker’s article on Earning his Mouse Ears Part I (you can read Part II and Part III here) gives a fascinating insight into his experiences of attending the Disney University. It is an excellent read that casts a light into the Disney mentality and includes a lot of great examples of how they differ (such as giving cast members 5 minutes per day to make random moments of magic, treating guests as “paying consultants” to learn about how to improve satisfaction and maintaining generally positive relationships with over 3 dozen trade unions where Mickey Mouse is actually a Teamster).

 

One question posed by the article was why people were willing to wait 30 minutes to get onto the Pirates of the Caribbean but would generally get irritated if waiting for more than a minute in the post office. Ron’s contention was that it was all about competition. If I experience something great, then my expectations are raised. If I then do the same task in a competing environment and the experience is not as great, I get irritated. One of the best examples is the traditional gripe of American tourists that visit Europe and experience bad restaurant service because the staff do not have the motivation of earning massive tips. Using this argument, experiencing the excitement of the Pirates ride at Disneyland after a 30 minute wait is just not the same as queuing at the post office and then speaking to the counter assistant about sending the package.

 

Although the point is correct, the argument about why people are willing to wait 30 minutes for Pirates is actually a lot more straight-forward. Disney lie!

 

At the very simplest level, Disney essentially over-estimate the queue time. If you hit a point in the queue that states 15 minutes, but then reach the amusement in 10, you feel good. It is brilliantly simple and yet so effective. In truth, there is more to it. Kim Button’s book “The Disney Queue Line Survival Guidebook” describes other Disney tools and techniques, such as the illusion of using characters and videos to suggest that the attraction starts with the queue, or breaking the line into smaller sections and providing partitions to hide the true length.

 

However, this does lead onto the question: what else can be done to improve the customer experience in queues?

 

A great example is Houston airport which faced a massive number of complaints from travellers who were queuing too long at baggage reclaim. Numerous trials such as increasing the number of baggage handlers improved the wait time but did not reduce complaints. Finally, an on-site analysis identified that passengers, on average, took 1 minute to walk from the arrival gate to baggage reclaim, and then 7 minutes to get their luggage. The answer – increase the time taken to get through arrivals. As a result of passengers walking six times longer to the reclaim area, complaints dropped to zero.

 

On a similar not, post World-War II, the boom in high-rises lead to many complaints about the time taken to wait for elevators. The solution – put mirrors outside the lift shafts so that people can occupy time by looking at themselves (or others).

 

Apple, by contrast, work on the basis that the best way to improve the customer experience in queues is by getting rid of them altogether. This is the rationale behind having staff at the entrance asking you how they can help, providing mobile tills with online receipts and even pre-identifying a sales rep prior to entering the store so you already know who to talk to (if you have the app).

 

This is not to say that Ron’s argument about the psychology of the expectation at the end of the queue is not also correct – the excitement of going onto the Pirates ride undoubtedly plays a part. It is just that a little bit of trickery and know-how can help businesses take a massive step towards providing far better customer experience in queues. Since Apple sells more per square foot than almost all other companies worldwide, such tricks may just be worth the effort.

 

Any other examples of taking the mickey out of queues, please let us know.

The Darth Vader Approach to Customer Needs

If you’ve ever felt like a company really ‘took advantage of you, knew what you needed and squeezed you for every penny’ then you might be interested to hear about this story I recently came across.  It highlights a strangely impressive (but totally awful) example of building up a business model based on customer needs insight that comes very much from the dark side.

In 2010, when BitTorrent was at its peak, people using the service started receiving litigation notes from companies that were claiming copyright infringement on content that had been illegally downloaded from the service.

Whilst there had been numerous high-profile cases globally of companies going after end users to sue them for illegally downloading content, this was somewhat different in that the companies filing the lawsuits were from the adult content industry. Essentially, they were identifying IP addresses of those downloading the content, referencing that against ISP subscriber data and then sending letters to those addresses stating that, as a result of illegal behaviour, the defendant was being sued for $150,000. Unless that was, they were willing to settle immediately for just £3,400.

The legal / moral issues associated with copyright of adult content culminated in a court case where one of the defendants successfully counter-argued that copyright law only was only permissible in cases where the content promotes the progress of science and the useful arts. Since adult content is not classified as “useful”, the US Court of Appeal threw out the case. More interestingly, a class action suit was recently raised against one of the adult content providers after a whistle-blower accused the company of proactively uploading content onto BitTorrent in order to set-up a honey-trap.

If proven, this is an amazing, but equally terrible, example of understanding both basic human nature and, more importantly, human needs. In terms of human nature, the song from the stage show “Avenue Q” summed up perfectly that the “Internet is for porn” because humans, by their nature, just love it.

In terms of human needs, I would argue that these companies were very intelligently (in a twisted way) reacting to a key user requirement of their “porn watching” audience – i.e. the need for anonymity. The mere fact of sending letters to a home (never mind the idea of threatening to put a litigation on your record for illegally downloading porn) was an enormous incentive to extort money on a mass market scale. And extortion it was. The pain and embarrassment, as well as family arguments caused cannot be underestimated.

Using the concepts of user needs analysis to build customer experiences is unfortunately equally valid for sinister reasons as they are for good. Let’s just hope that whenever a Death Star is finally designed, it will not be based on CX best practice.

Why Service Design, CX and UX are all part of a bigger customer-led world

One of Forrester’s analysts, Kerry Bodine, recently wrote an excellent article on how Service Design relates to CX and UX. The main hypothesis was based around the following diagram that service design (SD), customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) all overlap in the following way:

CX SD UX 3

The best description of these overlaps is given in Kerry’s article, but in summary:

  • UX primarily focuses on the design and development of digital journeys, whilst CX covers the whole multi-channel journey (both off-line and online); therefore, UX is a sub-set of CX
  • SD encompasses the whole customer journey in the same way that CX does
  • However, there are differences between service designers and customer experience people, most notably:
    • There are elements of CX that fall outside the normal scope of service designers (such as measurement and governance)
    • By contrast, service designers often focus on areas such as social innovation – something outside the common definition of CX
  • Finally, SD does not fully overlap with UX because in today’s business world, we simply do not use service design in digital marketing

Kerry then went on to state that as businesses evolve, there will be a merging of these areas into a more succinct structure as follows

CX SD UX 2

Whilst I agree with Kerry on what she said, I would actually argue that this merging of skills is actually a precursor to a larger, and more fundamental change to business that is being driven by the corporate desire to “put the customer at the heart of their business”. This hypothesis is based on the following argument.

Unfortunately, most corporate clients cannot explain what they mean when they tell the market that they are going to “put the customer at the heart of their business”. To be fair, this is not a new phenomenon – consultancies and agencies have been making money for decades from the fact that their clients are unable to describe their problem.

The fundamental difference today however, is that these traditional advisors no longer have the answers themselves.

The phrase itself highlights the problem: “Putting the customer at the heart” is an emotional connection – something that has always been the hunting ground of the agency because it is about communications, engagement and brand promise. “The heart of the business” however, is where the consultancy has always focused because it is infers changes to operating models, technical architectures and financial plans.

In this brave new world of constant change and consumer power, the future will be driven by those companies that successfully combine emotional relationships with hard-nosed logic.

To take an overused example: The Apple experience is a beautiful thing that people have a strong love for.  However, it would never have reached such emotional bliss had it not been underpinned by a technical architecture, digital supply chain, operating model and financial structure that is second-to-none.

This is where Kerry’s article links in nicely. Service design agencies are one of a new breed of Cogencies (the hybrid offspring of consultancy and agency) that are successfully providing an end-to-end link between customer-led insights and business operations. The reason why companies like them is not just that they are quick, agile, customer focused and relatively inexpensive (when compared against 3 year, $30M major infrastructure programmes). It is because they are also able to cross the divide between emotion and logic that enables them to speak sense to both the CMO / Head of Brand as well as the CFO / COO / Customer Services Director. They are providing a solution that everyone on the Board can buy into (if done well). And an aligned Board – well, that is the cornerstone to a successful implementation.

The issue with service design agencies is that all too often they are given a business problem and make a shiny solution only to find that they have, in fact, just beautifully fixed the wrong problem. They are arriving too far down the corporate chain, often used by companies that are looking for a quick fix. It would be far better if they were involved up-front during the strategy development process.

This is where there is a need for a fundamental change towards the creation of the true Customer-Led business model (CLB). Service Design in of itself are not adequate to create business strategies. However, the underlying principals of emotion + logic + agility are.

In the world of the customer-led business model, we need to combine the emotive elements of brand, purpose and corporate soul with the logical building blocks of market reviews, customer analysis, agile prototyping and financial modelling. Think WPP meets McKinsey meets IDEO – without them killing each other!

CX SD UX 1

As stated, Service Design is not a panacea that will turn companies into customer-led organisations. You do still need market analysis a la McKinsey, along with brand champions, big data geeks, cultural evangelists and all the other skill sets to be successful. The key point is that Service Design is you can mix the logical and the emotional to build a better offer. Take that thinking to a corporate level and you can build a true customer-led organisation.

You never know, you may even give yourself a chance of being able to explain what “putting the customer at the heart of your business” actually means.