David’s recent ‘planes, trains and automobiles’ experience on the way to a ski break in Switzerland made him reflect on just how much you can glean about a company based on its customer choice architecture.
So, I am on the train to the airport, ready to cram myself and my ‘hand-luggage only’ possessions on to a flight to Geneva. I decided to take advantage of the complimentary Wi-Fi to fire off a few emails and check the snow conditions at the resort. I use this train service a few times a month, so my details are stored, yet every time I log onto the Wi-Fi, I have to check the box that says I don’t want to receive their marketing material. When a company’s customer choice architecture is more about getting you on to a marketing database than providing a paperless, slick system, it says a lot about what their ‘service’ actually is.
I was cutting it a little fine on the time front so, on arrival at the airport, I headed straight to the departures area, hoping there were no hold-ups as I went through security. I was doing that walk you see school children do when the teacher yells, “no running!”, a comedic half-run/half-walk, until I hit the back of the queue. Oh dear! I started humming the tune of the Bob Marley song ‘Exodus’ to myself as I noticed the number of people in the line. OK, so there’s a queue at airport security, no surprise there; actually, a tad reassuring to know that this area is taken so seriously by the brilliant staff who work there. But this queue was moving at a sloth’s pace, partly due to the number of people filtered to the front because they had paid extra to be in the priority lane. So, the solution to the queue is to make money from it by charging people to avoid it. The same principle is applied at theme parks with ‘fast track’ tickets, and at my favourite music festival where you can pay a premium to use nicer toilets. When a company’s customer choice architecture enables it to make money from a problem (arguably caused by the company itself), it tells you a whole lot about how they regard you as a customer.
I’m not done yet! I had a car booked at Geneva for the last part of my journey to the slopes. The instructions were very clear: “Once you have collected your bag, call this number and then proceed to the drop-off/pick-up point where your driver will be waiting”. The ‘bot’ who answered gave me two options: press or say one for sales; press or say two for service. I pressed two and entered a queue where my call was “very important to them” so I should “continue to hold”. After a couple of minutes, I gave up and redialled the number, this time pressing one. Guess what? They picked up within two rings. When a company’s customer choice architecture prioritises new business over serving its existing customers, it sends a very clear message about what’s really important to that company.
What does your customer choice architecture say about your company? Does it enhance the customer experience, reward loyalty and make your service easier to use, or is it more about marketing, profit and generating new business?