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Archive for May, 2012

Interesting video on Customer Journey Mapping

Customer Journey mapping is a great technique to understand every single touch point your customers have with your organization and provides you opportunities to innovate around these touch points and delight your customers. The entire concept is nicely explained in theory and a case study. Enjoy!

Ideas for Big bazaar to improve their check-out situation..

May 31, 2012 2 comments

I am one of the many people who dread the thought of going to Big Bazaar for shopping but do so due to other social compulsions.

The reason I dread going there for shopping is the time it takes to check out once you have completed your shopping. There have been instances when it has taken me more than 60 minutes to check out. There have been times when I’ve dropped the articles I had selected after seing the que at the check-out counter and left for home as I thought it is not worth standing in a que for an hour or even more for the articles that I have picked up.

I also know that this is not just true in my case but also in a number of my friends case as well.

Now, is Big Bazaar (or for that matter any other large format retail store) not aware of this problem? That can’t be the case as they are smart and would know that this is a problem.

So, what is stopping them from solving this problem? Inertia? Maybe they do not realize the magnitude of the problem.

I wanted to think about this from their perspective and to try and find a solution that not only fixes this problem, but does so in a manner to increase the total sale per customer as well.

I could come up with the following ideas:

  1. Implement the teller system used by banks. All customers who have less than 6 articles can get on the que and get their wares billed and leave. All others will get a token for their carts. These customers are then free to roam about in the store or wait at a lounge (where coffee or tea can be served).  Just like the teller at a bank announces the token number and the customer can then go and get attended, the check-out counter announces the cart number and the customer can then join the counter, get his wares billed, make their payments and leave. No long ques and killing time (the most precious commodity of all).
  2. Implement the ATM concept: Introduce billing machines that the customers can use themselves to bill their wares, pay and check-out. These machines have been available for some time now. Though this involves a lot of investment, it also improves customer satisfaction. Also, the next generation of consumers are a generation which will grow up in a DIY (do-it-yourself) world and would rather prefer this than waiting in a que to be served.
  3. Order online, collect at the store: This model is already working at many stores. For example, “Groupe Casino“, a french departmental store has already deployed this model with great success. Their customers can place their orders online, make the payment and collect their goods in 2 hours from the store on their way back.
  4. Flip the billed to the biller: With the proliferation of smart phones and appification of our lives, they can think of developing an app which could recognize the bar-codes and can be used to scan all the items, generate a bill, collect payment from the stored credit card and generate a bar-code which can be verified at the gate to ensure there is no theft.

These are just 3 ideas that I could come up which would not only make it easier for the customers and improve customer satisfaction, but will also increase impulse purchase and last-minute drop-outs at the counter when the consumers have time to think and rationalize their purchases and some of the impulse purchases get dropped just before billing. This will increase the average bill size of the customers.

If given a good thought, we can come up with many more such creative solutions for many such problems.

Makes life easier for people like me!

Question is “Do they want to make our lifes easier?”

How has your experience been with the different departmental stores? Have you come across any interesting solution to solve the problem of the wait time at the check-out? If yes, please share the same with us..

Unfortunately, my prediction about Facebook comes true…

In January this year, in my blog post titled “Why is Facebook planning to go public now?”, I had predicted that all is not well with facebook and that is the reason for the timing of the IPO.

I was way off mark in the speed that I thought things would pan out, only goes on to point out that the pace of change around us is astounding to say the least.

Already, there are predictions being made that Facebook could die. I think it is a bit pre-mature to predict their death. They still have the people who could bring them back from the brink of disaster. However, the chances of that happening looks bleak though.

One question that the blog by  raises is the following:

  • How will Facebook or for that matter any other website monetize access to their sites via mobile devices?

In my opinion, in order to succeed in making money on mobile, you need to think outside of mobile ads. Advertisements  are an old world phenomenon, somehow survived the web (with a big help from Google Adsense). However, I think that advertisements as we know them now, have out-lived their use.

Someone needs to either re-invent advertisements or completely out-think others on how to make money on the mobile.

Whoever cracks this, one thing is for sure, it is going to be personal and individual.

It’s going to be a fascinating year ahead as this entire play will pan out.

Travel booking sites are destroying the airline industry..

May 30, 2012 2 comments

The proliferation of travel booking sites like (travelocity, expedia, makemytrip, cleartrip, Yatra, etc) have reduced the airline industry to an industry competing purely on price and this is telling on the profitability of the industry.

This so happens as price is the easiest way to compare multiple airlines. That coupled with the fact that most of the ticket bookings happen on these sites provides them with too much influence over the airline carriers and sets off the negative spiral of lower and lower prices for sectors.

Result is that almost all the players in the industry are in the red.

The airlines will need to figure out a different strategy to get out of this price competition. Some things that airlines could do are:

  1. Stop competing on price:  Delist themselves from all the travel  booking sites. Sell tickets only through their own portal. Even better would be if they can create an app for the smart-phones and allow your customers to book tickets from within the app.
  2. Start competing on convenience or comfort. Design the entire experience with passenger convinience as the top priority; starting from how the customers book their tickets, how they are treated when they arrive at the airport, the entire check-in process, boarding, in-flight experience, post landing experience, etc.
  3. Start competing on speed. Design the entire processes around getting the passengers in and out of the airport as quickly as possible.
  4. Start competing on luxury. Pamper your customers (holiday experience) at every step of the way. Identify niche routes and start operating luxury flights (could be shared chartered flights on those routes)
  5. Change your customer. Instead of treating the passenger as your customer, treat them as your ware and charge for their attention (in-flight advertising or shopping or entertainment). Find out who could pay for the un-divided attention of these 150-200 people.
These are just some ideas to differentiate an airline. Once you decide to differentiate, there could be so many ways to do so.
Continuous innovation and differntiation is the only way that the airline industry can survive and grow. Southwest and other such airlines have shown the way.
Hope someone from the industry is thinking along these lines as well.

Relevance of large format events…

I have attended many large conferences, where there are 1000’s of attendees who participate.

In my opinion, the reasons why someone would like to attend a conference could be:

  1. They seek information which can help them decide on a decision that they are currently deliberating.
  2. They want to network with others in the community.
  3. They want to network with key executives of the organizers so that they can finalize a deal or similar.
  4. Some combination of the above.
Now, the questions to ask are the following:
  1. Which of the above is the main reason for the organizers to organize the event? The size & format could depend on the answer to this question.
  2. What is the right audience size for an event which could enable this?
I have noticed a trend that the organizers of such conferences are using the number of attendees as a measure of success and tout it, which by itself does not reveal if the event was successful for the participants or the organizers.
Hence, I hope (& wish) that there is more thought being put in the reasons for organizing such large conferences and the format being planned accordingly.
Categories: Ideas, Ideas Tags: , ,

Let’s stop being a jerk

Today, I was flying from Bangalore to Mumbai in a 6Am flight operated by Indigo. There was a delay of 5 mins to start the boarding due to multiple reasons:

  • There were not enough coaches to ferry the passengers to the aircrafts. The airline was boarding 3 flights simultaneously and looks like the capacity was only to board 2 flights.
  • The security guard was late in arriving at the boarding gate.

Though this was something that the airline needed to get right everytime to ensure customer satisfaction, I think a delay of 5 minutes was something we could make up.

I was the first person in the que at the boarding gate and the person behind me was a part of the industry as he know a lot about the time it takes to board a flight, how the airline industry works. He was getting very impatient with the delay and started fussing about the delay. He started to continuously question the attendant about the delay. After a couple of minutes, he started questioning the competence of the attendants.

I shall appreciate the fact that the attendant for she was patient for all the time and did respond back to him respectfully.

Once we were through the boarding gate, we had to wait for a few minutes for the coaches to come to ferry us to the aircraft. The passenger i was referring to, again started fussing about the delay and started to question the competence of the airline staff and even got a bit personal.

Now, the flight took off about 10 mins late and arrived about 5 mins late at the destination.

Though it is important for all organizations to shore up their customer service, processes to ensure customer satisfaction, i think it is also our responsibility as a consumer to stop being a jerk and harassing the employees trying to help us.

As they say,

  • if you have a negative feedback to share, do so individually. Write to the organization or tweet about this, but with dignity and not get personal.
  • if you have a positive feedback, do share it openly with everyone. This will only increasingly reinforce this behavior and you will continue to get great service.

Have you seen similar behavior and what do you think about such behavior?

 

The myth of RoI for IT investments

May 27, 2012 2 comments

What is the most important 2 words that you will hear when you listen to a salesman trying to sell an IT solution to a prospective customer?

  1. RoI – Return on Investment
  2. TCO – Total cost of ownership

These are two holy cows that are omni-present in any investment.

In my opinion, the time has now come to slaughter these holy cows, at least from an IT investment perspective.

How many times have we seen that an organization is slow in adopting new technologies which have the potential to create substantial gains in the market place due to the consideration that their last IT investments have not paid off yet.

Also, how many times have we seen that organizations are stuck with an IT investment even when they know that it is not working out for them as the original objectives for the IT investment did not paid off.

Some smart people introduced the concept of RoI and TCO to provide a cushion of support to get organizations to invest in IT. This was true to a large extent in a world where IT as a capital expense, was primarily used to support operations and the pace of technological invention was slow to say the least.

In a world where technological advances do not take decades to pan out but are available in years and even months, these concepts do not hold good and have lost relevance. Not just have they lost relevance, but they could even have negative consequences for the organizations as they loose out on these technological changes and opportinities that these changes provide for an organization to re-invent themselves.

It is getting increasingly important for organizations to re-invent themselves or their markets to stay relevant, whether they like it or not.

In any case, the way RoI and TCO are calculated in most organizations are only subjective and internal savings and no one in the organization can say for sure that the returns were purely due to the investments and not due to a combination of a lot of such investments. The amount of time and effort it takes for an organization to do an TCO or a RoI analysis is significant. Not to mention that this reduces the focus of the organization from its key objectives (which is to find ways and means of serving their customers better).

In my opinion the most important consideration that an organization should have before deciding on any IT investment is to find answers to the following questions:

  1. Is the investment a necessary condition for the organization to stabilize & grow? 
  2. Will this investment make the organization more nimble & fast 
  3. Will this investment provide us a competitive edge in the market?

If answer to any of these three questions is yes, then the organization needs to go ahead with the investment and if the answer is no to all three, then they should just move on.

The worst thing that can happen is that the organization takes upto 7-8 months to evaluate the RoI for an IT investment and by the time the analysis is ready the technological landscape has changed again (Yes, with the current pace of change this is  more and more a distinct possibility).