Seth Godin recently posted the following on his
blog. Many parts of his message relate to your business or organization. You’ll find my narrative about Seth’s thoughts in parenthesis.
Seth begins by stating, “I realized that I don’t dislike flying–I dislike
airports. There are so many things we can learn from what they do wrong”. Seth lists eleven things that airports do wrong. I hope your business is not guilty of any of these things.
1. No one is in charge. The airport doesn’t appear to have a CEO, and if it does, you never see her, hear about her or interact with her in any way. When the person at the top doesn’t care, it filters down. (Do you clearly understand that leadership starts at the top? The business owner, president or CEO must have a clear vision that is filtered down from there. That structure will make your business more successful)
2. Problems persist because organizations defend their turf instead of embrace the problem. The TSA blames the facilities people, who blame someone else, and around and around. Only when the user’s problem is the driver of behavior (as opposed to maintaining power or the status quo) things change. (If you and your staff members are not working as a team to understand WHY your customers are coming to your business, and WHAT they’re looking for there, you will never be able to retain them. The business must also focus on the strengths of each individual team member and use those strengths effectively.)
3. The food is aimed squarely at the (disappearing) middle of the market. People who like steamed meat and bags of chips never have a problem finding something to eat at an airport. Apparently, profit-maximizing vendors haven’t realized that we’re all a lot weirder than we used to be. (Is your business offering a Happy Meal, when you’d rather be selling steak? Many businesses advertise for new customers using coupons and discounts. Experience shows that the customers brought in by these types of offers aren’t always the customers you want. Chances are there are a lot of businesses that provide the same service you do. That’s why your business must stand out as different, better, or more serviceable if you’re going to navigate the market successfully)
4. Like colleges, airports see customers as powerless transients. Hey, you’re going to be gone tomorrow, but they’ll still be here. (Besides working toward gaining new customers, every business should have a plan in place to retain the customers they already have. You really aren’t gaining customers if you’re not retaining them, too.)
5. By removing slack, airlines create failure. In order to increase profit, airlines work hard to get the maximum number of flights out of each plane, each day. As a result, there are no spares, no downtime and no resilience. By assuming that their customer base prefers to save money, not anxiety, they create an anxiety-filled system. (Trust is one of the MOST important characteristics you want your customers to feel about you. If you fail to build rapport and cement relationships of trust, your business will not reach it’s potential. And that goal not only applies to your customers, it applies to your employees as well)
6. The TSA is ruled by superstition, not fact. They act without data and put on a quite serious but ultimately useless bit of theater. Ten years later, the theater is now becoming an entrenched status quo, one that gets ever worse. (I have experienced businesses that cycle through the SAME actions year after year “because it’s what we’ve always done”. Can we say, “stagnation”! Technology, social media, and marketing rules are constantly changing. If you’re not open to new ideas, then nothing new will happen in your business)
7. The ad hoc is forbidden. Imagine an airplane employee bringing in an extension cord and a power strip to deal with the daily occurrence of travelers hunched in the corner around a single outlet. Impossible. There is a bias toward permanent and improved, not quick and effective. (Don’t focus on what can’t be done, but consider, however unlikely, what CAN be done. Listen to your team–they have great ideas. As much as possible try their solutions, and recognize their contribution.)
8. Everyone is treated the same. Effective organizations treat different people differently. While there’s some window dressing at the edges (I’m thinking of slightly faster first class lines and slightly more convenient motorized cars for seniors), in general, airports insist that the one size they’ve chosen to offer fit all. (Give your customers choices, and never make judgements about what you think they will want or can afford. Present the value and benefit, and people will find a way to get what they want. Which means, you HAVE to KNOW what they want….)
9. There are plenty of potential bad surprises, but no good ones. You can have a flight be canceled, be strip searched or even go to the wrong airport. But all possibility for delight has been removed. It wouldn’t take much to completely transform the experience from a chore to a delight. (Reward your customers for their loyalty. Give them free product or a free service from time to time. Ask them to refer their friends and family to you, then show your appreciation when they do so)
10. They are sterile. Everyone who passes through leaves no trace, every morning starts anew. There are no connections between people, either fellow passengers or the staff. No one says, “welcome back,” and that’s honest, because no one feels particularly welcome. (What do you know about your customers? If your business is service related, it is imperative that you know and remember your customers. I saw the same hairdresser every six weeks for about a year. I would have stayed with her longer, but I had to re-introduce myself at EVERY appointment. How many customers are you losing because you aren’t connecting?)
11. No one is having any fun. Most people who work at airports have precisely the same demeanor as people who work at a cemetery. The system has become so industrialized that personal expression is apparently forbidden. (Have you considered the first impressions you’re making? Who is answering your phone? Who are customers seeing first when they walk in the door? Make sure these people have a cheerful attitude, and that they’re smiling!)
Seth Godin finishes his remarks by writing, “As we see at many organizations that end up like this, the airport mistakes its market domination for a you-have-no-choice monopoly (we do have a choice, we stay home). And in pursuit of reliable, predictable outcomes, these organizations dehumanize everything, pretending it will increase profits, when it actually does exactly the opposite”.
I’ll finish this blog post by asking you to consider whether you are/aren’t focusing on your customers rather than profit? Not so much the customer you hope to gain, but on the customer that you have—the customer who is involved in and buying from your business. Make sure THAT customer is happy and reaping benefit from your business. When that customer is happy, your business will have the profits you’re looking for.
Tell me about an area that you feel your business is weak in. Then tell me and my readers what you plan to do to strengthen that area of your business.