Time Has Come for Real Integrated Customer Experience

When are we going to see true convergence of on line, digital customer experience with traditional brick and mortar in-store experience? This is such a big opportunity to create a unified, converged customer experience. Yet, it seems like digital assets are creating even more silo’d experiences for customers. Am I off base?


How Individuals Personally Impact Customer Experience

imgresI really relish the moments when the cosmos work in my favor, when the planets align.  This is one of those times.

I had an experience last night that I thought would make for a good story here.  But, I was struggling with the title.  What was the message?  Then, I saw a tweet from my friend Roy Atkinson announcing the topic for tonight’s #custserv twitter chat.  “How Do You (personally) Make a Real Difference with Customer Service”.  Worlds collided (in a good way).  Planets aligned.

I had my story.  I had my message.

So, how can individuals, whether they be employees or soloists, really impact the customer experience?  First of all, in my opinion, that’s the only way.  Customer experience is a person to person endeavor.  At any and all touch points along the customer/buyer journey, the connection between people is what the experience is based upon.  And, this is regardless of what function that individual is performing as part of the customer experience journey.  So, that being said, on with the story.

I usually end these types of posts with a question.  This time, lets start with a question.  Have you ever thought about how your hours of operation impact your customers’ experience?  More to the point, have you considered how much this constraint can negatively impact your customers’ experiences?  Even more, what criteria do you use to set your hours of operation?  And finally, how are your employees implementing that policy?  (ok, that’s four questions)

Here’s the point.  I was out and about with my family last night.  And after dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant, we were on a mission to get long overdue haircuts for my son and my father-in-law.  We drove up to the place my son usually gets his style on, a national chain that will go nameless.  We saw that it was open until eight pm.  As it was currently 7:50, we parked the car and headed in.

Setting the scene.  Two stylists working, each with a customer in her chair.  As we walked in, they both looked up with clear expressions of displeasure on their faces.  As we made our way back to the reception counter, one of the employees left her styling post and quickly informed us that they were closing in ten minutes.  And, we could not be served.

Ten minutes.  They were closing in ten minutes.  Which means, according to my simple logic, they were still open for business.  Hours of operation were until eight o’clock.  It was ten minutes until eight.  Are you with me?  I don’t need to spell it out.  But, to complete the equation, what this encounter equalled was that we will not be returning to that particular establishment in the future.  And, while I’m not going to bash the national brand here, if a local should ask me, they will get my opinion.  Oh, and I can only assume, because hair stylists typically depend on tips for a portion of their income, that these two particular employees do what they do for the altruistic benefit of their unkempt fellow man.

So, when one thinks about how individuals can personally impact the customer experience, how about this?  They can put the customer at the center of everything they do.  They can give a hoot.  They can, at the very least, provide your customers the minimum service and value to which you have committed.

It’s not that complicated.

Micky’s Got A Line For Everything

I had an angle to this post that I thought was pretty solid.  Then a seemingly innocuous question from a friend completely made me rethink the subject.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  First a bit of background.

My family have seemed to established a regular vacation pattern with our annual trek to Walt Disney World in Florida.  And, yes I admit it.  I have as much, if not more fun than my six and four year old kids.  Being in the customer experience business, of course I still always look at these things with one critical eye on the experience design while still taking in the childlike enthusiasm that Disney so magically creates.

Disney does a good job of managing lines at its attractions.  And wow!  There were some serious lines the week of Spring Break while we were there.  But, I guess because I had just recently read this article and others about how retailers are leveraging iPads to reduce or eliminate in-store queues , I kind of felt like Russel Crowe in A Beautiful Mind.  I saw opportunities pop out at me in 3D everywhere I went in the Disney parks.  In particular, there seems to be a significant opportunity to better manage the queues at non-attraction venues within the parks, most notably at places serving food.

Just in random thought, a few of these seem to be pretty easy to implement:

  • Bring the food queue to the people by equipping cast members with iPads to take orders instead of the bottlenecks caused by the single cast member sitting at a cash register.
  • Provide several self-service kiosks in food venues to allow guests to order on their own – like self checkin kiosks at the airport.
  • Expanding Disney’s mobile apps to allow guest to not only check availability and make dining reservations, but to allow them to pre-order food and have it available at a specific time – especially at the quick service locations.

And with respect to the attractions, there is opportunity too.

Disney has this FastPass system that allows you to get a ticket to return to an attraction at a pre-determined time and avoid the line or wait in a much shorter line.  How about using their mobile app to deliver this FastPass?  And, what would be the downside if guest were able to trade or swap FastPass mobile tickets while they are within the boundaries of the park?  There are times when you get a FastPass and you just can’t make it back to the attraction at the designated time.  Or, you decide you want to do something else at that time.  The mobile app could control any potential abuse of the swapping system.  And it would leverage social collaboration among guests, adding to the richness of the experience.

Gamification is a vastly untapped tool in Disney’s in-park guest experience bag of tricks.

Disney has this “Hidden Mickey” thing where there are hidden images of the iconic Mickey Mouse silhouette all over the parks.  Guests enjoy trying to find them along their journey.  How about leveraging gamification to allow guests to earn points or badges for finding Hidden Mickey that give them FastPass access to the most popular attractions?  Leveraging Foursquare or some other location-based check-in platform would allow guests to earn badges or mayorships of attractions that would give them V.I.P. access as well.

The Disney Mobile app uses crowds to improve attraction wait time estimates.  How about giving guests incentives, badges or other rewards for reporting wait times?

Wouldn’t you agree that these all just seem too obvious to think that Disney hasn’t already thought of them?  So, on the plane home (in between comforting my kids as we descended through thunderstorms into Atlanta…Atlanta and thunderstorms.  Is that like the ultimate travel nightmare combination?  Or what?), I was flummoxed by the thought as to why they’re not available.

Flash forward to the Monday after my vacation when I was relaying my curiosity to my friend.  His immediate response was this.  “Maybe Disney doesn’t want to eliminate these lines.  Maybe its intentional.”  Wow!  That threw me for a loop!  But the more I thought about it, it was both confusing and completely logical.  The only problem is, I don’t know why.  This is The Walt Disney Company.  The Albert Einsteins of customer experience.  Like I said, my thoughts are certainly not Earth-shattering.  What else could it be?  Could Disney have some motive for the pace at which they’ve adopted social mobile technology?

What am I missing?

(next post, I’ll be exploring the opportunities I think Disney has to better leverage customer analytics)