Lost luggage, grocery carts and other musing…


I travel a lot. I don’t like to check baggage. Ever. I’ve checked it only a few times when traveling for business and have experienced an extremely high percentage of lost baggage. Traveling for business I once had to buy a suit at the only store I could find open at 10pm at night – the ugliest brown plaid suit I’ve ever seen – for a 7am meeting with regulators because when I landed my checked luggage found itself states away. Let’s just say a brown plaid suit – matching jacket and skirt – is not a good look in any circumstance. Business travelers don’t want to check luggage. We don’t have time to wait and don’t have patience for one more opportunity in the chain of custody for something to go wrong. Yet every step an airline takes in operational efficiency pushes the consumer to check baggage (making bins smaller, smaller baggage fees if you pay when you book your flight,  limiting carry ons, etc.) It’s because of this lack of consideration for the customer that I’m never surprised when customer satisfaction overall for airline travelers is dismal, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index its a mere 66 to 78 percent.

Chances are you spend a lot of time thinking about operational efficiencies. After all its necessary to optimize budget spend and ensure better outcomes. But are you making choices for efficiency without considering the impact to your customer? Customer satisfaction fosters loyalty. Loyalty fosters a repeat customer. Repeat customers result in referrals to your business. And that all equates to success. As you optimize and process improve, consider the impact on your customer first:

Ask your customers what they want.

What your customer tells you may not translate exactly into your operations flow, but it will give you a barometer to gauge the impact of your proposed changes. Consider the example above – customers want a fast, on-time, seamless, predictable flying experience. Knowing that, the airlines shouldn’t implement process changes that are counter to what the customers want. Similarly, your customers know what they expect from your service delivery, and what “great” feels like. Even if you’ve been doing what you’re doing for years, don’t assume you know what your customer wants – after all maybe it’s changed! Ask them BEFORE you make changes in your processes.

Be able to articulate how any operational efficiencies will tie into delivering the customer experience you’re driving for.

So you’ve asked your customers what they want, you’re implementing operational efficiencies, be sure you tie those things together. Manage expectations and tell your customer that you know what they want, and you’re making this change to give it to them and tell them how your action will result in their satisfaction.

Measure your success.

The greatest tool to measure your organization’s success is your customer response. If you save a step and a dollar, but you’ve made the experience less satisfying for your core customer, it’s only a matter of time before profits fall.  So ask your customer what they think and how you’re doing.

We recently visited a new concept grocery store with a very confusing front end check-out. The consumer was expected to place their cart on one side of a checkout lane, and to place themselves on the other side. There was no conveyor belt, rather, the clerk would take items from the cart and directly scan them. There was a large rack of candy bars and magazines between the carts and the customers. Once you dropped your cart on one side, you actually had to backtrack around the candy bars to the other side of the rack where you could no longer see your cart, and wait in line with other shoppers who couldn’t see their carts either. While pondering this new, uncomfortable, clumsy and inconvenient process, we could see steps in the operation that likely seemed efficient from the company’s perspective and that probably looked good on the white board in the brainstorming session. But we left the store with one conclusion – a group of guys in suits had created this checkout idea in a conference room and no one tested it or asked consumers what they thought. I predict in six months this shopping checkout system will be altered, at considerable expense to the owner.

Focusing on operational efficiencies is necessary. Taking the time to ask your customers what they want and expect will be worth your time and effort and will keep you focused on what’s important as you make necessary changes. Your customers will appreciate it, and they’ll thank you by coming back.



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