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Archive for June 19, 2014

A Lesson From the Airlines: Start Off Strong

 

I came across an article this morning talking about the biggest threat to air travels, which turns out to be disgruntled, unruly passengers. The article goes on to talk about these types of passengers, how the numbers have increased in the recent past, and what airlines can do to alleviate this issue.

 

One thing struck me, and I thought it can be applied to general customer service as well. In the article, it talks about the DISPAX conference, which was the second International Conference on Disruptive Passenger Behavior. Yes, there is a conference solely focused on this, as it is a significant concern.

 

During this conference, Prasad Yarlagadda, a professor of science and engineering at Queensland University of Techonology summed it up best by saying, “I see unruly behavior due to frustration and a lack of information more than anything else.”

 

This is a great statement that can be applied to many businesses in all industries: Make it great from the beginning. We’ve always known first impressions can make or break and experience. The airlines industry understands this, and believes that one solution to dissatisfaction is providing a strong experience from the get go, which means, more signage that is helpful to passengers, and providing enough information about what they are about to experience in order to ensure a successful flight.

 

When looking at customer dissatisfaction, take a look at action items that cause problems for your customers from the onset, whether it’s an initial call that’s not answered, a layout that causes confusion to customers as they enter your store, or anything else that might cause customer frustration before they even start the experience.

 

If you’re not incorporating the first impressions into your feedback surveys, you might want to take a look at this important part of the journey to make sure there isn’t anything preventing a great experience.

 

Take a lesson from the airlines and make sure your customer’s journey starts off strong. Customers tend to remember the beginning and end of an experience, and base their overall perception on that. Start strong and finish strong – if something minor happens along the way, it may be more easily overlooked or forgiven by your customer, and they will be likely to return.

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Why My Daughter and I Don’t Bank Together….

 

I will be the first to admit I don’t know a whole lot about financial regulations and changes to policies regarding bank accounts. However, I did get an education on this last week and was surprised with some of my findings.

 

My 16 year old daughter just started working at her first job – this is very exciting for both of us. One of the first things we did once she received her first paycheck was talk about opening a checking account, accompanied by a discussion of how to manage money, and all of that fun stuff.

 

In preparation, when I stopped at a local branch of the bank we have been with for years, I inquired about teen accounts and what was required. At the time, I was told that I would need to be on her account since she is a minor, and all that would be required would be her school ID since she does not have a drivers license yet.

 

Fast forward to the first paycheck….I take my daughter to our local branch to open her account. She is more than excited and as we wait to speak with a banker, she is rattling on about how she is going to spend her money, asking if she will get a debit card, etc. The banker greets us and asks about the reason for our visit. After explaining, she then proceeds to tell me that she will need two forms of identification and her school ID will not be sufficient. I explain that I was in a week or two prior and was told it was fine since my husband and I were customers and we would be tied to the account. She went to check with her Manager, and we heard him say “absolutely not” and we realized she would not be opening an account that day.

 

Disappointed, we left the bank. My daughter, now eager to open an account, asked me what we were going to do. I was busy pondering the misinformation I received between my two visits. Being in the mystery shopping industry, I silently wondered if the bank was engaged in a mystery shopping program, as this is one of the things that would be uncovered in a traditional program.

 

But, my daughter brought me back to reality, and I needed to figure out what we were going to do. I could go to the DMV and purchase a State ID, but she is getting her license in a couple of months and I didn’t want to spend the extra money just for the sake of opening a bank account.
Back to my mystery shopping mentality, I put in a call to the branch on the other side of town, just to see what information I could get. Maybe the misinformation travels and this branch wouldn’t be so firm on the “two forms of identification” policy.

 

This gets better…..at this branch, they told me there was no way possible for her to open an account until she was 17 years of age, identification or not.

 

Okay, so clearly my daughter was not going to be banking where my husband and I do. I had to come to terms with that. I ended up doing some research to figure out the best option. We found a bank for her, and all that was needed was her school ID plus my name being on the account since she is a minor.

 

I’m still surprised by this series of events; it’s not something that is a “make or break” situation and would cause us to switch banks by any means, but it did give me food for thought:

 

1. Regulations are regulations: while there are new laws and policies to abide by, and banking institutions of course are worried about implications of not adhering to them, I can completely understand why some financial institutions may be more rigid than others. In the grand scheme of things though, retaining customers might be a good reason for really looking at policies and determining if any allowances can be made in certain situations. In many, I’m sure there is no room to bend, but in others, there may be, and that might be the difference between a new customer or one who leaves the bank all together.

 

2. Make sure your information is consistent across the board: establish policies that are consistent across all locations as best as you can. I’m not sure the average consumer would have thought to call another branch of the same bank to see if the same information is given, but if they did, imagine the confusion from two completely different versions of a policy on teen checking accounts. Ensure that training procedures are uniform, and that you are measuring performance on a regular basis.

 

3. Do some competitive intelligence: are you losing customers in a key demographic? Is traffic down? In an increasingly competitive industry, it’s not a bad idea to conduct competitive intelligence evaluations on a periodic basis. In this case, it would be interesting to see the results from a study of banks as it relates to opening teen accounts – what information is required? Does the bank cater to this age group? What types of accounts are available? What features does it offer – mobile, online, text alerts, etc? Do the options vary across a bank’s branches? This type of information can be collected in an objective manner, with results compiled in a way to help banks understand what customers are looking for, what is available to them, and to ensure that information is consistent across the board.

 

All in all, my daughter is happy with the bank we ended up with, and I did like how they treated her. We spent quite some time in the branch while she got a mini education on banking and maintaining a checking account. I know we will be happy there, but I am disappointed that she could not open an account at “our” branch, which would have been a bit more convenient all around.

 

 

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As Workers Fight For $15 Minimum Wage, Panera Turns to Automation

 

Protests and debate about raising the minimum wage across the nation have been making news in recent months. Workers have staged protests and the debate over whether or not the minimum wage should be raised has been making headlines.

 

Some argue that this will help the nation’s economy, while others say it will put small to mid sized companies out of business.

 

As the debate has heated up, I’ve noticed other news articles discussing automation in some industries, such as quick serve restaurants. In the past, we saw the advent of self-serve checkout lanes growing across retailers. Now, we are starting to see this automation in the quick serve industry.

 

Panera Bread is the latest company to turn to mobile and technology to improve its processes, and they claim it will ultimately improve their customer experience.

 

In May, the company shared that they will be reducing the number of cashiers at their locations and will replace them with kiosks in an effort to reduce long wait times, which has been one sticking point of their customer experience. This will allow Panera to readjust their staffing, which right now is increased to address the longer wait times while they are adapting to the new kiosk system, which will be fully rolled out by 2016.

 

So, does this mean that Panera will reduce staff, resulting in less job opportunities? It remains unclear, but Panera’s CEO, Ron Shaich, indicates that staff who previously worked as cashiers will now be delivering orders and that no jobs will be lost.

 

While this may not be the case for Panera, but we will have to wait to see if his theory holds true, there are some businesses that may mirror Panera’s newest model in an attempt to downsize as far as staffing is concerned.

 

Will this mean that there are less jobs overall as automation takes over? While some may believe this to be our future, I’m inclined to think that it will not. After all, self-serve checkout lanes have been around for quite some time, and even after all of these years the number of self-serves vs. staffed registers remains largely disproportionate.

 

If Panera can reach their goal of improving wait time, enhancing the customer experience, and not show a decrease in staffing, it will be a win-win situation for all. Maybe by then employees will see a higher minimum wage as well, which could be the trifecta for Panera employees.

 

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