Monday, 26 July 2010

Holiday time: the perfect customer experience ?

This time of year we take our well-earned holiday, and it is often the one time during the year when we are aware of being someone's customers for a prolonged period of time. We travel long distances, often in numerous modes of transport that aren't our own. We don't eat our own food. We don't stay in our own home. We truly are someone's customer throughout this period. And we know when we are getting bad service!

Everyone's experiences on holiday are different and I'm lucky to say my bad experiences have come from poor process, not mean-spirited people. On occasion when we don't seen to get the best from people, it is easy to see why, given the processes they have to work with. For me, this poor process appears in four clusters:
  1. Bad quality (are these prawns cooked properly?)
  2. Poor value for money (there were more prawns in the picture)
  3. Not doing things when promised (he said he was coming to take our order next)
  4. Long / numerous / non-obvious queues (I didn't know that was where you had to go to order food)
The lean thinker's favourite game on holiday is to spot the classic Toyota wastes in every situation and yes, redesign the airport "flow experience". That's good fun, it passes the time, and I'm sure my travelling companions just love it ("please stop, you're killing us"). But here are three extra challenges I'd like to set for us all as we pack up and ship out for a couple of weeks:
  1. Try to spot how much unnecessary complexity is causing any poor experiences. How could it have been simpler ? The very nature of holidays can be seeking the unfamiliar (language, local custom), but what about unnecessary complication and uncertainty / vagueness ?
  2. Perhaps save this one for the journey home. Think about all of the things that bothered you on your holiday. Did they fall into the four clusters of bad quality, poor value, unkept promises, queues ? Now what about your customers ? Can you think of times when your customers experience this with you ? Why does it happen ? What could you change to eliminate the worst of these ? What quick wins could you implement on your first day back in ? (before you start on those two hundred emails that are waiting for you)
  3. Finally, try to catch excellence in your holiday experience. This can be the things that go right, including the things that turn out to be "easier than I thought". I challenge you to take a picture or (better still) sketch it. Put the photo/sketch where you can see it as a souvenir of your holiday, email it to us at LeanIdeas - why is it clever? My starter for ten is ordering food in motorway services in Japan (see picture of superb visual management - certainly easier than I thought!).
LeanIdeas work to create better experiences for our clients' customers, more profitably delivered by our clients. This could be helping you implement big step changes at low risk, or creating the continuous improvement culture that solves your customers' problems a little bit every day. So your colleagues may even be solving them whilst you are away on your well-deserved holiday !