Design is a key differentiator when creating products and customer experiences. While price matters, it is not the only criteria and sometimes irrelevant when making purchase decisions. As an example, I recently bought Continue reading “Design Is A Competitive Differentiator”
The number of digital buyers continues to rise every year. “In 2017, an estimated 1.66 billion people worldwide purchased goods online. During the same year, global e-retail sales amounted to 2.3 trillion U.S. dollars, and projections show growth of up to 4.48 Continue reading “User Experience Matters”
“As we move toward a more automated culture, most travelers will adapt to a Jetsonian, automated lifestyle. Every industry we know will be disrupted. For those of us in aviation, this signals the shift from aviation as a service industry to a transactional one that is potentially devoid of the personal touches that made the romance of flight an event.”
As I am boarding my flight to Denver today to speak at the AAAE Conference on “Autonomous Airports,” I can’t help but question, what does autonomous airport really mean. The customer experience value of an airport itself is not autonomous. Rather, the emerging autonomous airport experience aims to give birth to, enable and empower autonomous customers.
That brings about even more questions for CX professionals, particular customer experience professionals in the aviation world.
What is an autonomous customer?
The autonomous customer uses his/her time better and has more of it. Today we have a “holding room” at airport gates. Holding room… even the term itself sounds limiting.
What is a customer supposed to do in a holding room? Be on hold?
Autonomous airports are open spaces with no physical or process boundaries between the individual customer touch points (check-in, bag drop, etc.). As a result, there also is no barrier between crewmember and customer. Eliminating barriers in autonomous airports shifts the power from the airport procedures and processes to the traveler. This makes travel more enjoyable.
Because of this customer experience-driven design, the autonomous customer can go through the experience at his/her own pace. The autonomous customer is not “held” anywhere. The airport becomes a menu of tools and services that the autonomous customer is empowered to choose to use or not. Who would not want to do that?
What about Grandma’s journey?
Autonomous airports enable both customers and crewmembers. A roving crew has access to much more information and tools on the go that enable them to take care of the needs of all customers of all ages, particularly those who do not want to or are unable to do so themselves.
Maybe the first time, Grandma will be intimidated (although not all grandmas are alike!) by the autonomous airport environment, but she will quickly get used to and appreciate the self-driving device that can whisk her and her bags from one gate to another in a few minutes.
What about my privacy? Does autonomy mean my airline knows everything about me?
Autonomy is also about accountability. On both sides. Customers want information and adequate services at the right times. It is impossible for any brand to deliver that without access to certain customer information or preferences.
Customers also want seamless journeys across the airport. To design that airlines and airports need access to certain customer history. For example, if you want the airline to wait for the customer one extra minute at the gate, the airline needs to know that the customer is physically at the airport. Even more so, the airline should know whether the customer has passed security already.
In the case of JetBlue’s autonomous airport CX design, Bag Buddy, one of my ideas, was designed to pick up customer bags at their homes and transport them directly to their destinations. That seamless movement of objects and people lays on the foundations of data sharing. More specifically, it rests on good data that is appropriate and useful in delivering the experience customers want.
Questions remain, and as CX experts continue to design autonomous airports and meet the needs of the autonomous customer, new questions will arise. For now, let me demystify the autonomous airport for you. At the heart of the autonomous airport, from the CX perspective, is the information that will allow the airport as a physical asset to expand its boundaries and reach people’s homes. Data allows physical boundaries to merge and creates one big experience of transporting people and their belongings across space. That is a future we all want, Jetsons fans or not.
Now that we have helped you become experts in the design of space and function and the design of feelings it is time to take care of the aesthetics and connect customer experience to the brand identity. T5 is an expression of the JetBlue brand. When customers enter the space they feel and know that they are flying JetBlue and not another airline. How can you make customers know without a doubt that they are experiencing your brand?
Know your brand!
At first pass, know your brand is self-explanatory, but you would be surprised by how many professionals believe that only the marketing department needs to know brand identity. In today’s digital and mobile world every member of a company must know the brand. Without a deep understanding of the brand you represent, you are a blind painter. How can you even begin to express values and beliefs you do not know and understand? Know your brand. If you don’t, find a way to learn it! Now.
Convince your CFO that brand equity funding is long term investment
If many people do not know the brands they work for, even fewer fail to understand the fragile nature of brand equity. If you go to your CFO tomorrow and ask for funding to “infuse the brand” in whatever physical or digital experience you are building, you will be asked for the ROI on this undertaking. You will also be told that it feels like this “brand stuff” is a “nice to have,” not a “must have” feature.
If there is one moment when you can self-destruct the business case of Customer Experience it is the moment you agree with this statement. The right answer is “Investment in the brand side of customer experience is a must-have feature because without reinvestment in the brand equity, the customer will not connect the experience you have built with the brand you represent.”
Treat your brand with the same empathy you treat your employees and customers
If your brand is strong, it has personality. If it has personality, you can treat your brand as a person – with empathy and care. JetBlue’s persona is smart, fresh and stylish. As the CX designer, I translate this to edgy and innovative, taking a modern view – chic and modern, regardless of time. What does that mean during the design phase? Obsession over every detail.
Details make the customer experience memorable and unique. Nothing is too small for the CX designer to touch. The kiosks in T5 are slim, white and without the “catcher” boarding passes. Brand-driven decisions and compromises made this happen. Crewmembers would have preferred wider kiosks to lay down their cups of coffee. They also would have preferred another color that does not require as much cleaning. Customers would have preferred the metal, functional and protruding catcher for the boarding passes. The brand persona did not fit with any of those functional needs, so they are not in the lobby today.
Without attention to details the look and feel of the T5 lobby would not have screamed JetBlue the way it does now. By respecting the brand identity the design came out sleek and customers tweeted praise for the design, comparing it to Apple.
Location, location, location
How the customer experience touchpoints are sequences also can express brand identity. JetBlue is “nice.” Flying with JetBlue is a “nice experience.” JetBlue is “human and comfortable.” So when the decision was made to invest in custom-made repack stations with integrated scales, we took the brand identity into consideration. The table could have been made more cheaply out of metal. It would not have made the experience “nice.”
Instead, customers would have felt either like they were in a factory or, best case scenario, in surgery. The tables also were conveniently build in close proximity to the new real “Bag Drop” to it more comfortable for customers to move between the two touch points.
Customer experience professionals must be the loudest brand ambassadors and brand managers. CX professionals deliver on the promises the brand marketers communicate in their campaigns. Without this link and without that collaboration, customer experience feels disconnected, or worse.
As a customer experience professional, you must own the brand equally to the marketers and serve the brand’s values. Without that, you are delivering a customer experience without a soul and you are missing the opportunity to build a deep, meaningful, memorable connection with the customer – the ultimate goal of every brand.
Image courtesy as featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine
Start with the change management. When we removed the podiums at the lobby, we essentially took away our crewmembers’ comfort zone – their anchor, their place to hold personal items. This change was disruptive to their daily lives. It was important that, as we took away tools, we also needed to give crewmembers new ones to make them feel heard and understood. So we designed the hospitality training – a CX soft training with standards and tips on how to interact with customers and keep the brand promises we have made.
Every progressive brand today aspires to have more self-service. Very few implement self-service successfully. Self-service is a new tool to optimize a company’s workforce by removing transactions from the system. All industries are looking at self-service as a strategy of the future.
Hospitals, airlines, and hotels are installing kiosks to self check-in while grocery stores and taxi companies are implementing self-service check out with digital payment products. The list goes on and on. What differentiates a successful use of self-service as a building block of innovation from a failed implementation that adds more effort for the customer that leaves him/her angry and frustrated?
Successful self-service is self-sufficient. It enables customers to meet all their needs by themselves. If users can do only some of the steps of the whole process alone then self-service adds costs to the business, adds complexity and effort to the experience. For example, if a customer can print his/her food voucher when there is a delay, but cannot rebook him/herself (i.e. still needs to call customer service) then all the brand has accomplished is to add steps for the customer to get the same value he/she could have done before with ONLY a phone call.
Another thing to be aware of with self-service is what type of labor is optimized and what labor is part of the self-service solution. The business case of self-service might not work if the solution requires incremental (and expensive) IT resources while removing existing (and cheaper) unskilled resources. As Matthew Dixon says in : “[t]he challenge is not in getting today’s customer to try self-service. The challenge lies in getting today’s customer to avoid channel switching from self-service to a live phone call… the self-service battle isn’t about getting customers to go, it’s about getting them to stay.” It is important to launch the solution that solves all the needs of the customer before launching a technology solution to avoid getting the wrong results.
Design for 80% of the customer base, not the high touch 5% – 10%. The 5% base solution is more expensive and most probably will break the business case. Be ready for all the people who will question the design that will NOT cover 100% of the customers. Questions about the exceptions will keep coming up: “What is the customer does not have a credit card? What if the customer does not speak English? What if …?” The answer to all of them is: “They will go to the full service option at that touch point. They will not self-serve.” Be strong and keep the focus on the goals of self-service – to alleviate, not eliminate, the calls to the contact center; to allow the employees to offer a better service to those people who do not have a credit card and/or do not speak English. It is counterintuitive, but by not solving for them through self-service, we are building a better service for the exceptions as well.
Be brave! Some people will not like the self-service design. You will hear a lot of push back about de-humanizing the experience for the customers. Anjali Lai from Forrester studied the emotions of brand interactions (see below) and was able to show that there is no significant difference in the perception of the customers when they self-serve (from interacting with a live person).
What is more human? To have a human tell a customer that he/she is not able to solve the problem, because the process is not designed well or that they will be put on a brief call to speak to another person, or having self-service solutions that empower customers to create their own experiences in a personalized and independent way (without telling their names and confirmation numbers 2 or more times).
Self-service is an integral part of the future, but unless self-service is designed and executed in a strategic and empathetic manner it can drive more costs and complaints than savings and satisfaction. The basic value creation mandate is critical in this business strategy: unless self-service creates real value for the customer he/she will not embrace it.
So ask yourself, if you were the customer, would you gain anything from doing a task yourself vs. getting help from the company? As the company, do you gain anything by self-serving? Is it faster, easier or simpler? If you cannot answer yes to any of those questions, do not invest in self-service technology.
Argyle Journal recently interviewed customer experience professional (and Doing CX Right writer) Liliana Petrova about emerging self service technology and meeting and exceeding customer expectations in airports.
Liliana brings out a point that is integral to all technology-based customer experience solutions, namely that “[w]e want to create something that feels like magic, without breaking any foundational rules.”
Of that magic and the quest to create it as part of customer experience, Liliana explains, “[i]f there is a way to create a seamless and invisible experience, we want to find a way to get there.”
Read more about how she and her team are working to do so.
Play the audio below to hear Liliana speak about the magical customer experience.