When I’m out and about, I pay close attention to the processes that are used in every aspect of our daily lives. My friends sometimes think it’s annoying, but I have also imagined some of our best process innovations for customers through these observations. As analysts, I think many of us believe that when businesses promote a re-engineering of a process to “serve our customers better,” that good things will happen. But this is not always so, and at times it can be a disaster, as I experienced just this week.
I was checking into a high-end hotel and noticed new kiosks and minimal equipment at the check-in desks. I initially thought that it looked very clean and efficient, but I was standing in a backup of customers and there was quite a bit of unhappy mumbling. As agents became free, they walked over to the beginning of the waiting line, greeted the customer personally and walked them over to their desk to start the check-in process. This was a nice touch but when it was finally our turn, the problem became clear. The agents were using new laptops to check-in customers and it was immediately apparent that it was not the best tool for the job. The agents struggled to use the track pad and to access the screens they needed to move the process forward. It was awkward and slow. I asked our agent if I could use the kiosk, but the hotel reserved them for extremely busy times like conferences and they were not turned on. I commented that I thought the check-in process was slow and inefficient and the agent agreed. Here is my take-away from the experience:
- A new tool doesn’t make it the right tool.
Many times, and I have seen this recently with smartphones, we become enamored with new technology and insist on using it whether or not it is the right tool for the job.
- Usability testing is more important than ever.
Usability testing seems to have gone by the wayside. It used to be that you had several layers of testing which included usability testing. For example, in retail, anything that keeps associates from taking care of customers efficiently would likely be scrutinized.
- Monitoring after the fact is critical to success.
Post go-live observations and feedback from line employees is critical to overall success. Don’t be afraid to go back and change a decision if you see it’s not working. In addition, I regularly tell customers that metrics are important to everything. I have been touting operational analytics as the killer app for the last two years. I believe it comes into play here. My impression is that in the new hotel check-in process, knowing how long it now takes to check in customers would raise warning lights everywhere. I’m sure that somewhere this new system is being hailed as a success, but the people on the ground and the hotel customers are definitely not sold. It will be interesting to see what action, if any, the hotel takes next.
Phil Avelar is a managing partner at Advanced Solutions, based in Chicago. He shares his passion for solving customers problems in his blog posts, industry articles and talks. When he’s not writing, he’s working with customers to develop and apply innovative solutions to common problems in the supply chain.