For some reason traveling makes operational inefficiency stand out more dramatically than at other times. This may be due to how little control I feel while I am at the mercy of the companies that serve me when I travel. On a recent ski vacation to Colorado, I found three examples of inefficiency that made me wonder why companies don’t correct such things that can severely damage their customer relationships.
The first came even before I got on the plane. I was appalled to learn that the airline I chose to fly wanted to charge me $175 in addition to the ticket price to carry my “odd-size” baggage (also known as skis) in each direction of my skiing destination. This means it would cost me more to fly my skis than to fly me, and I truly considered whether I could give my skis a name and purchase them a seat next to me on the flight. Instead I chose to leave my skis at home and use rental skis while on vacation, which disappointed me greatly as I love my skis and never know what to expect with rental equipment. I understand how challenging it is for airline companies in this economic climate, but they would do well to consider the entire picture of their customers’ reasons for flying.
When I arrived at Denver International Airport, I couldn’t help but notice how the elaborate ski and golf club conveyer system they built specifically to handle these “odd-size” items was virtually empty. I have no idea how the airline pricing scheme will affect ski and golf resorts, but I suspect I won’t be the only one choosing to stay closer to home on my next vacation. The short-sighted nature of this airline’s pricing will certainly backfire as they are not focusing on how to provide customers with an efficient and value-based package to accommodate a ski vacation.
When I arrived at my rental car company, I was shocked to find that I had to wait in line some 40 minutes before I could speak to an agent to get my car and begin my trip. This was early on a Friday afternoon and not during a holiday week or weekend. An extremely long line of customers was being served by very few agents. I understand that sometimes rental car companies run enticing promotions, which result in more customers than their competitors. But because all rental car companies’ reservation systems request the time customers will arrive to pick up their car (and often the airline and flight number as well), they can know exactly when demand will be highest. This means that, unlike a restaurant, the rental car company can anticipate when to staff their location appropriately. This company chose not use the information, apologize for the inconvenience, or show any interest in speeding up their efforts to serve customers. While I was waiting in line, more than one person within earshot stated they will never again use this company no matter how many “Dollar” they may save.
On the return flight, I was delighted to find that the movie the flight attendant stated we were going to see was not the one actually shown. This incongruence turned out to be a good thing, or so I thought. By choosing to first show a “short subject” sitcom, the movie I was excited to watch needed to be cut short right at the climax because we had arrived at our destination. This made me extremely frustrated and I suspect I was not alone. Again, the airline had all the information regarding the time of the flight and the length of the movie. They chose not to use this information, however, which could have helped ensure a more enjoyable customer experience and, as a result, a more likely reason for customers to choose this airline again. Needless to say, these were not so “friendly” skies.
Operational inefficiency occurs in every business, of course, and only those companies who are vigilant about uncovering these inefficiencies and correcting them are capable of maintaining strong customer relationships. During challenging economic times such as these, it is vital to look at the entire experience from the eyes of the customer. Do you answer the phone and return calls in a timely manner? Do you ask that your customer’s account number be entered via the telephone keypad and then ask for the same account number again when you speak with the customer? Is the information in your marketing materials and website up to date? Are your products or services the quality the customer should expect based on your marketing efforts?
Inefficiency can not only keep your current customers from coming back, it can also increase costs and decrease employee engagement. No matter what kind of business you have, curbing these operational inefficiencies can ensure the customer experience is satisfactory. And why spend so much time and money trying to get new customers when losing current ones can be more detrimental to your business? Given all the competition out there, it is vital to focus on the customers you have by uncovering and fixing the inefficiencies found in your business.
Craemer Consulting – www.craemerconsulting.com