Thursday, July 07, 2005

Customer Quality "Measures - "What Time Is It? What ever the Customer says"

I attended a conference today and while listening to the speaker complain about his travel plans it reminded me of my adventures when I traveled frequently from coast to coast.

Once you become familiar with "Systems Thinking" it is very hard not to look at each situation from an end-to-end perspective.

A few years back I sent the following letter & high level flow to the airline I used 90% of the time for my business trips. I choose not to mention this airline because I believe it applies to each major airline. Some don’t even offer a meal any longer, but the principle applies to any industry.

Many companies look through their own eyes and not through their customers when setting expectations or requirements. Companies must become the "Thing" or become the "Customer" when setting expectations.

Let me explain my reasoning through an actual event. I had an early morning flight (7:10 AM) that was a 2-hour flight and there would be no meal served, only the usual coffee, tea, pretzels, etc. I found this unacceptable and inquired as to why a breakfast would not be served. The answer was it’s only a 2-hour flight.

Is it? Maybe by your calculations but not mine (customer).

You see my process started at 4:30 AM. My time is 5 hours and 15 minutes. Broken down as follows:

  • 45 minutes travel to airport (15 minute parking)
  • 1 hour arrival before flight (airline request)
  • 2 hour flight time (if on schedule - HA)
  • 30 minute baggage claim (subtract if carry-on)
  • 30 minute rental car (add time if reservation lost)
  • 30 minute travel to office (add time if first time to office)

In other words see the whole picture and use all your senses (feel, hear, see, touch, smell, common) to determine what your customer sees and wants. The airline only saw the flight time as their process, not the whole (e.g., system) customer experience when traveling.

HINT: If you can find a McDonald’s order a Happy Meal and carry on the plane (but be sure to add in the extra time)!


Michael Jones said...

I dunno - I agree with airlines forsaking airplane food - especially on short-haul flights.

Apart from the subpar quality, it's a throwback to an era when air travel was something special and such service was expected.

With discount carriers especially, an airplane is little more than a flying bus. Greyhound doesn't serve, I don't expect them to, and if it saves operational expense that can be passed on in cheaper air travel, great.

Of course, it'll take a few years before people get the concept. JetBlue's been very good at marketing the "no free lunch" concept - although it helps they make up for it in good services, nice seats and personal satellite TV. That's a travel perk that worth something.

J-Man said...

The reason airline food is no longer “expected” is because when something is taken away, at first it is missed then over time it is no longer expected. They could take away the whole beverage cart and peanuts service altogether and 5 years from now we would no longer “expect” that either. Some airlines no longer offer pillows and blankets. The question is where do you draw the line? It is almost like the airlines are trying to see how much crap the consumer is willing to take in exchange for a low fare. We as consumers are validating this way of thinking by flocking to the low cost discount airlines. In any business, as long as price is the only determining factor used in purchasing decisions the product will only get worse and worse as time goes by due to cost cutting measures. This will continue until the majority of the consumers are no longer willing to accept the product. As far as airline travel goes we are not there yet. So for now qualityg be happy that you are getting a beverage on your flights, as I predict that this too will soon also be part of a “throwback to an era when air travel was something special and such service was expected”.

qualityg says said...


Very insightful response. Perhaps in 10 years having food will become a "Latent or Delighter" need the customer (those that don't remember) will experience.