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.

RyanAir: What happens when you just don’t care…

Michael O’Leary announced a couple of weeks back that he wanted to turn around the ‘abruptness of RyanAir’s culture‘.

So those of you who have heard me speak over the last few years will know that I use RyanAir as a great example of Customer Experience Management done well. Whilst this was initially shocking to many (a few years ago) most people have more recently cottoned on to why and audiences are now beginning to quote RyanAir back to me when I’m looking for examples of CX management.

However the vote as to whether people would invest in them has always been split into two camps.

  1. Just look at their results – they are a successful business, they are profitable and you said it yourself Martin – they have managed their CX very well – we know what to expect when we travel with them and there is a market for their product. So yes I’ll invest – I think they will continue to provide a good return
  2. They treat people like [insert your preferred strong words] – of course I wouldn’t give them my money

Personally I believe it really is as simple as Camp Two ultimately being the right answer however the problem is that Camp One were also ‘right’ – at least on the face of it.  From a short term investment point of view it was easy to see why money should be put into RyanAir.  The reason I believe Camp One have some faulty thinking is explained in my blog post earlier this year on where the money really comes from and why that model is not sustainable in the long-run.

RyanAir have issued a profit warning and are receiving a lot of bad press for their poor customer service.   I believe that this is the beginning of the end for RyanAir being a business that makes a profit out of consistently managing their ‘below benchmark’ CX.  Their business model is cracking (rising fuel prices, regulatory challenges to their revenues and competitive pressure on price) and their customers have no reason to stay other than for price.  We’re not going to see them go bankrupt anytime soon but I think that we will enter an era of discussion of RyanAir as a struggling airline in the face of tougher competition on both price AND service.  It is the latter that RyanAir just has no idea how to respond to.

It’s interesting to watch this unfold because it is, for once, shareholder pressure that is forcing Michael O’Leary to address his poor customer experience and also because I believe that despite his declarations he still doesn’t get it.

O’Leary has said that he wants to stop ‘pissing customers off’ and that this also shouldn’t cost any money.  From anyone else I’d take that as a simple statement of good practice.   From him I can’t help but feel that if it HAD cost any money he wouldn’t have bothered.  I simply don’t believe he cares.

Fundamentally he has a company built on his own personal set of values which show no regard for his customers or employees.  Changing that culture and turning around RyanAir, is going to require that he leaves or has some kind of personal revelation.

Now this HAS happened before with smaller companies but typically with the big ones the CEO moves on and a new culture comes in.  If you want to hear about what a big difference culture CAN make I’d encourage you to watch the video testimonial from Roma Mouldings who attended a 3-Day bootcamp with Zappos Insights – who know a thing or two about Culture’s impact on performance!

RyanAir delivers consistent CX but would you invest?

Another cracking post from Comotion Associate Ian Golding – the RyanAir and Customer Experience debate is one I’m all too familiar with and use in many of my conference speeches.  During these talks and the questions that inevitably follow we debate whether RyanAir are any good at Customer Experience, invariably the audience are split 60% saying No and they, like Ian would never fly with them.  40% say yes – because, as Ian says, they do exactly what they promise – they consistently meet expectations (that have been set very low).

ryanair plane

So clearly RyanAir are competing mostly on Price and to some degree destination.  RyanAir would argue that there is a big enough demand for this combination of Service and Price.  So, my final question to the audience (and to you today) is always

 Would I invest in RyanAir?

to which I would have to answer a resounding no. 

Their business model is not sustainable

  1. A great majority of their revenue is dependent on airport/government based subsidies for bringing volumes of passengers through airports.  This is under regulatory review and extremely volatile income.  The plane rides themselves are not proftiable.
  2. It is too easy to replicate and better their service offer

 

RyanAir – Cattle Class

It is so important to understand the business model behind a company because there must be a sustainable strategy in order to continue to exist.  You need permission from customers to make profits and ultimately RyanAir bribes passengers to fly on their buses so they can make money out of the towns they fly to – If RyanAir could fly cattle on their planes instead – they would their business model does not care at all about the passengers except for the revenue they make elsewhere from them.

If another low-cost airline can exceed those same expectations customers will leave in droves. Because this is a business that only knows how to ‘meet’ expectations it will not be able to respond to that competition.  But most importantly – even if it tried – because this is a business that does not appear to care about it’s employees and customers – who would care if they did try?

Mobile Wallets, Identity Security and Banking Digital Maturity

My iPhone is the least valuable thing I carry. I like it that way – William Lovegrove on e-Consultancy

… having been through this recently myself I would concur… my iphone5 had a security flaw in it that meant it could be unlocked, you hardly ever recover a stolen iphone because once the sim is out it’s untrackable and the identity theft risk is very tangible in a society that is ‘risk-innocent’ and not protecting itself appropriately. 

It’s a race between a ‘few’ people who are looking at device security and a tipping point of security issues that wake people up to the risks…  that tipping point will get closer once banks implement mobile wallets – the device will be a much bigger target.
I’ve been involved with or around a few Mobile Banking strategies for UK banks over the last few years.  Banks are very keen to get in on the mobile wallet space and get ahead of Google, PayPal, Apple etc.  However banks are not traditionally innovators, certainly in technology.  They have been slow to wake up to the realisation that MOST companies now are enabled by technology (even in somecase have become primarily technology companies).  No one was really discussing the issues highlighted in this article (some did but were cut down because ‘we have to be in on this’)
My experience is that the Banks, whilst rushing to develop cool mobile strategies that ‘position’ them for innovation and marketshare, are absolutely not going far enough in considering the wider impacts of this technology.  Many have a good intent with making things easier for customers and increasing customer engagement.   However if you are involved in enabling a technology to become so intrinsically more intimate (yes finances are intimate) and thereby also making us a target for crime without considering how to mitigate this then you are not really making it better for us.
Here’s what I need (with this particular subject lense on)
  1. Give me somewhere safe to put my money
  2. Make it easy for me to access (unless I want to lock it away in exchange for some upside)
Very much in that order!
Fraud departments of Banks need to be ahead of the game here (a lot are using old standards for new channels), technology groups need to be on top of the latest thinking/developments (a lot are outsourcing the development of mobile channels to 3rd parties).
If Banks are going to be truly serious about being involved in mobile payments and wallets there needs to be a step change in how they go about being drivers of technology and innovation – across all operations in the bank.
After my phone loss – I’ve locked my new phone down now, changed all my passwords to a very secure system, backed everything up, removed financial information from the phone, set findmyiphone to track (to no avail), downloaded hiddenapp for future protection, reviewed my mobile phone insurance – that’s all easy enough right?
I mean – EVERYONE does that right?

Shaking up the UK Banking Sector – I’m cautiously optimistic

So Virgin Money are having a showcase week following their acquisition of the ‘good’ Northern Rock.

I am personally very excited about

a) Virgin Money’s ‘full’ entrance to the market
b) The next 5 years of the UK Banking sector

Virgin have been hankering after the opportunity to transform this industry for a long time now and they stand a very good chance of being able to do so… but they are not the only change shifters around and they are not ‘automatically’ going to be THE people to change the industry necessarily!

What IS wrong with UK Banking?
When bankers or those in the industry survey customers about their opinions about banking we get answers back about interest rates, charges and fat-cats.

What we don’t get is what are people trying to do with their money (that means they want better interest rates), how are people managing their money (such that they incur charges) and what do people understand about the banking industry such that they perceive ‘Fat Cats’ as being unfairly paid…

The banking industry is just generally not used to being customer-centred in it’s thinking. It has never had to be.

Well that is certainly changing now. Rightly or wrongly the banking crisis has made us all say “Enough is enough… something has to change” and there are now new entrants to the industry who are clamouring to offer us alternatives in an industry numbed by sameness.

When I look at the new entrants the ones that excite me are the ones that I know are thinking about us as human beings (and yes consumers), our lives and what we want to achieve ‘through’ banking – as opposed to those who are just thinking ‘what is a better banking product’ or ‘what does mobile banking mean for a customer’.

The lens of change has to be wider than this.

My pick of ones to watch… and why some obvious names don’t make the list

  • [my out on a limb prediction] – Royal Bank of Scotland
  • [the favourite but with caveats] – Virgin Money
  • [The Industry Usurpers] – Apple/Amazon/Paypal
  • [The Surprising Innovator] – Standard Chartered
  • [The disrupter] – Yodlee

Who didn’t make the list

  • Aggregators/Online ‘layers’ – Bank Simple/Moneydashboard/Mint
  • The incumbants – The other high-street banks

So why is the perpetrator (as defined by the red-tops) top of my list?  Not just because the only way is up ;-) but because

  1. The new starts are struggling with actually implementing the technology behind a bank.  Don’t expect current accounts or mortgages from Tesco Bank anytime soon the FSA is far too busy scrutinising them on why they couldn’t robustly deliver Savings and Credit Cards [their core business]Virgin Money remain on the list because they have at least acquired a fully working bank but they may still have serious integration challenges (based on the same technology Tesco Bank is struggling with)
  2. The incumbants have already got a fully working bank system, are experienced at delivering change into it and rolling that out to their staff.Their challenge is a cultural and organisational one – their key change they need to make is to decide to be more customer centred and do everything they already know how to do – but with THAT focus.  They COULD move very quickly and deliver to their already hefty market share a great experience.

The disruptors may well be the ones that kick one or two of the incumbants into action (the jungle drums of customer experience suggest this is happening within at least three major UK retail banks)

There are so many ways to cut your predictions – and I may well change my mind in a years time – there is one thing that for me remains absolute though.  The winner will be one who works out what it really means to be customer-led from the inside-out, who can demonstrate a genuine sense of connection and understanding with their customers.

Motrin gets “Twittered”

An extraordinary thing happened this weekend. A major brand was “taken down” by Twitter. A good synopsis of the story can be found here

http://blogs.forbes.com/sciencebizblog/2008/11/twitter-moms-si.html

it includes the original add. But you should SEE the response on Twitter (#motrinmums). I myself first heard about from @dancingmango and a very good post on his blog which shows the spikes in activity. Marc’s post and the whole unfolding of this event makes, more than ever, the case for marketing to get out of their entrenched positions and get up to speed with the ways in which consumers are able to communicate now and to understand the importance of the power of the consumer to the future of their brands. More than just showing themselves up as an out of touch team they followed up with a classicly poor apology in which tehy didn’t even say sorry and skirted around the issue by apologising for disappointing their consumers. Geesh this isn’t your DAD telling you off for coming in late… this is your BOTTOM LINE telling you to f.off because you took a liberty!

However is this a fair response to the situation? Some, but notably male, comments on the forbes.com article point out the “Mobs are inherently unpredictable…” and is probably right. Do we believe that Motrin really wanted to create offense? Do we believe that Motrin DIDNT think they were genuinely connecting with their customers? When journalists get a bee in their bonnet about something in the UK we often blame the hacks for stirring up a storm in a tee cup… can we say the same about the Twitter Mobs… did they get themselves in a mess about nothing?

Does it matter if the end result is your web-site is down for a whole weekend and the whole world thinks you just took the michael out of Mothers worldwide?

I think it does matter if we are to have a sane world in which we all consider the impact of our conversations, the truth of our communication (both sending and receiving) and are going to truly understand each other…

but what certainly matters more is saying sorry properly…

Oh dear…

Starbucks’ Service Commitment, Starbucks Service Moment

Starbucks’ Service Commitment, Starbucks Service Moment:
An excellent quick overview of the commitment some companies are willing to make to improving their customer service and a great story from the frontline of the wider impact Magic Moments can have.

Whilst it is difficult to measure that impact it is certain the moments like this make customers feel more significant and the on the old hierarchy of needs that’s right up there. If I can have a retail experience that also makes me feel significant I’m going to get quite loyal to that brand. How else would Apple have survived the debacle that was the iPhone 3G launch without loyal customers who were looking for more than just a phone and so were willing to put up with the annoyances of getting the ‘phone’ bit right.

What Magic Moments are you creating for your customers now? What would need to happen for you to be able to take a “moment”, as Starbucks have done, to get with your front-line and get everyone motivated to create excellent experiences for your customers?

dancingmango » What is it that makes your product distinctive?

dancingmango » What is it that makes your product distinctive?:

My recently easternised friend and excellent customer experience dude, Marc McNeill, has found a fantastic interview with The Master Brewer for Guinness. In the world of technology and consumer products/services we might equate him to a Product Manager/Developer. He has an on the ground responsibility for producing the end-product.

Our Master brewer shows that his priorities lie with an overall customer experience and how his product features (flavour, colour etc) fit in with that… the actual product features are the last thing he mentions.

Marc challenges us to think about what this means for the way that we organise ourselves around defining the customer experience in the context of developing innovative and irresistible products

There are very few master brewers who go beyond just satisfying their customers with features and functionality, to focus upon delivering “a great all round experience”. To turn the mediocre and mundane into theatre. Like Apple have done with the iPhone. Like Guinness do with their stout. Yet something gets lost as you move away from the strategic owners of the Brand, to those responsible for tactical implementations. And this loss can obviously be costly. If the Guinness Master Brewer was only responsible for a drink that is an acquired taste, would it still be the sixth top ranked global Beer brand?

This is an example from a single product world, but in many companies we are dealing with developing individual products that bundle together to form the consumer proposition. Understanding how we can enable our Master Brewers to be responsible for excellent flavour that complements the rest of the products on our menu is key to being able to offer value at a consumer level and understand the profitability of our component products…

I would look to companies such as Apple, Telcos (where there are often many components to the end-bundle a customer might buy) and premium financial services to see how they organise themselves around understanding customer needs and delivering a selection of products to them that together create an overall experience. There is a lot an organisation needs to do to be able to deliver an end to end experience across a range of products and services. Guiness has the luxury of being fairly single-product minded… for the rest of us we need to make sure our organisation is lined up to deliver not just our product developers…

Can Payroll be linked to Increased Sales?

I was recently in our local B&Q DIY store and followed a classic strategy of mine to solve our “sanding and varnishing” challenge.

  • Research the product online
  • Check product availability
  • Check store location and opening times
  • Go to store to get more information and purchase

This store certainly had a large range of products in the section we needed, some were fully in stock and some weren’t however it wasn’t until I was able to talk to a very knowledgeable employee that I was able to be confident that what I needed…

  1. existed and
  2. was in stock in this store and could therefore
  3. make a purchase.

We had, to be fair, been in another store earlier and not found what we needed… but in that store there was no-one knowledgeable to help us. We left confident that there was no stock of what we wanted to purchase… and went to another store (fortunately for B&Q another of theirs…)

So I was interested to stumble upon a Wharton Business School article which links the satisfaction of customer experience especially around stock availability and making purchases with… yes you guessed it… knowledgeable staff.

In short, customers get lower satisfaction from their shopping experience when stores have too few employees and, more importantly, when stores lack employees who are knowledgeable about what’s in the store.

Further more the study actually links increases and reallocations of payroll (around staff availability and knowledgeable staff) to increase in sales via increased customer experience scores. At times they were able to show an $1 increase on a staff member to a $4-$28 increase in sales!!!

So before you jump straight to your supply chain technology, or customer relationship database to see where you can eak out a better bang for your buck, may be this week have a look at where you are investing in some of your most valuable assets and see how you can better leverage your staff to deliver a consistent, excellent customer experience…

I would be willing to bet that the store we finally purchased from, whilst bigger, was not more successful because of size of stock availability but actually because of the range of knowledgeable staff it was able to support in guiding customers through their in-store experience.

The full report is available on Knowledge@Wharton (free to register) which is an excellent resource for all Business related research including the many ways in which customer experience is becoming more and more integrated into boardroom level decision making strategies.

The bad table

I thought that Seth’s recent musing on restaurant service levels has something for us all to think about with regards our service offerings. He describes being offered the “worst table” in the restaurant, when he asked for an alternative table the one he pointed out was declared “reserved”…

Do you have a “worst table” that some of your customers end up with? Do you have a “best table” and how do you decide who gets that?

The bad table:
marketing dilemma: who should get your best effort? Should it be the new customer who you just might be able to convert into a long-term customer? Or should it be the loyal customer who is already valuable? Sorry, but the answer is this: you can’t have a bad table.

Here in the UK we have a great advert for Nationwide which makes similar points about customer service but from the flip-side:-

The “New Customers Only” mantra of promotions that are only available if you are a valuable (in this instance, new) customer…

Every offering, every level of service, every product you have should offer value at a level that means something to your customers new or established.  It is of course the case that ‘some’ of your offerings will be objectively compared to others and found to be ‘better’.

I think the lesson here is that you shouldn’t hold back on your good stuff just in case a better customer comes along.

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