Dear Business Leaders,
You’re all customers. You buy items for work and for home, travel, go to shows or movies. So why is it that you subject customers to situations that you’d be appalled to experience yourself? Think about it: You spend all this money on marketing to woo and keep customers, then deliver some awful experience that flushes your marketing investment right down the toilet.
Consider airlines. They spend millions on ads, email marketing campaigns, social engagement, mobile apps, and loyalty programs. What’s more, airlines have incredibly sophisticated booking systems. So there shouldn’t be any customer turbulence, right? Wrong. Those booking systems allow travelers to book connections that are nearly impossible to make. In fact, the system actually suggests those flight combinations.
Example: Last night I had the pleasure of sprinting (in heels carrying a laptop) from gate C30 (near the far end of Concourse C) to gate A72 (at the far at end of Concourse A) Detroit Metro airport to make a connection. See the airport map below to get a sense of the distance; you’ll note that it’s nearly three quarters of a mile between those gates. My first flight landed at 7:05pm, after my second flight had started boarding (7pm). Can you imagine an airline executive sprinting through the airport to make this connection? I can’t. But airlines’ reservation systems apparently aren’t set with rules that guard against the ridiculous. Sure, I made the flight; but only because I ran (and I was a stressed out ball of sweat when I stumbled onto the plane). And P.S., as I ran through the airport, an announcement played saying that passengers need to be at their gate to board at least 20 minutes before flight time. That would have been miraculous in my case. Even with sprinting through the airport I was the very last person to board the plane. In fact, everyone else was seated, baggage stowed.
If you’re thinking that I shouldn’t have booked that flight, well, you’re thinking like the kind of executives who don’t consider experiences from the customer’s point of view. I assume that if an airline offers a flight combination, it’s doable. I mean, hey, if you try to purchase a book on Amazon or a song on iTunes that you’ve already purchased, you’ll get a prompt asking if you’re sure that you want to complete the purchase. Those brands may lose money in that moment, but gain trust and loyalty over the long term by simply saving customers from their own potential missteps.
How about movie theaters? Few movie-goers actually want to sit in the front five to 10 rows of most theaters. If you’re stuck with those seats, you’re likely to get a crick in your neck from craning or vertigo watching an action flick. No movie theater executive would ever sit there, but you can be sure that they’re happy to take money from the uncomfortable souls who are forced to.
Or think of hotel fees. It’s galling to me to pay to self-park at a hotel. The resort fees at resort hotels are even worse. If everyone has to pay these fees—regardless of whether they use the covered amenities, then hotels should just increase the price of their rooms and be done with it. The perpetrators of these various fees are usually luxury hotels that charge big room rates to begin with. It’s the economy hotels that give customers free parking, Internet, pools, and even breakfast. Go figure.
The list goes on: unreasonable wait times, lengthy forms, inconsistent pricing, surly staff.
It’s way past time for executives to set a seat for the customer at the boardroom table when setting their business strategies. Customer expectations will only continue to rise, and customer-centric upstarts will continue to steal customers from established, but complacent businesses. So, perhaps companies should stop making customer-centric brand promises that they just can’t keep—or at the very least start delivering experiences that their executives would be glad to experience themselves.
One Cross Conlon
P.S. To see other’s take on the importance of customer experience in marketing and in general, check out the CXDay 2014 Blog Carnival posts on the CXPA’s website.