Lowering Friction

Last Friday morning, I arrived at Heathrow airport outside London after traveling on two flights after more than 13 hours of travel. Although I had slept for about 3 hours on the trans-Atlantic flight, I was tired! The shower and breakfast at the Arrivals Lounge helped me wake up a bit, then, I headed to my hotel. Or, more accurately, I tried to head to my hotel.

In most cities, hotels near the airport have shuttle bus service. In some cities, like San Francisco, multiple hotels team up and share the same shuttle service. At Heathrow, though, that's not the case, although it may seem to be. There are two bus lines that serve the hotels: London transit and the Hotel Hoppa by National Express. While the hotel web sites say the London transit buses are free, I was unable to find them in the area for the hotel busses. Rumor has it there's a bus station somewhere in the airport, but I gave up trying to find it. I just wanted to get to my room.

The Hotel Hoppa, on the other hand, is relatively easy to find, but you have to find the right one for your hotel. That can be a challenge. Signs are limited, and the bus marques don't show all the hotels. I did eventually find the right one, though, and got on and put down my bags. The driver asked if I had a ticket.

Um... No.

How would I get one? I have no idea. He said he could also take cash. However, he couldn't take a credit card, or the London Oyster card, or anything else I had. So, off the bus I got after collecting my bags and headed for the cabs.

Since the hotel trip was such a short distance, they would only take cash, too!

Frustration!

So, I schlepped my stuff back into the terminal, found an ATM, got some cash, went back out and got in a cab and went to my hotel. Still frustrated, and now tired, again.

Think about how hard that was for a customer of the hotel! Heathrow caters to many travelers from all around the world who, like me, who come off an international flight and want to find respite at a Heathrow hotel. Why not make it easier?

Think about this in your business: it is easy for your customers to do business with you? How many hurdles do they have to cross before you serve them? Do you give your customers opportunity to be frustrated or do you deliberately work to eliminate challenges before it causes you to lose business?

Take the time to figure out the answer, and then reduce that friction to be as low as possible. How many customers give up before they get to the end?

How to Reveal Future Features

As the sun set over London recently, I sat by the window in my hotel room overlooking Heathrow airport having a conversation with a friend who is a start-up CEO. She was navigating a tricky situation with competitors and industry thought leaders. As we talked, the topic of all the things the product could do in the future emerged, and we discussed how it didn't do nearly all of the things she envisioned. This is a typical challenge for those with vision and a clear understanding of the value their product can bring as its capabilities expand.

However, as a member of a product or services team, do not even consider communicating futures to anyone. When it comes to what the product will do in the future, ask questions, take notes, and communicate gratitude for their input. Be prepared to communicate with customers your recognition that there is so much more you are planning to do without being specific. Be sure to draw clear lines between reality (what's available today) and futures (what may be available down the road). Honesty, clarity, transparency, and listening all go a long way to developing long-term customer relationships.

Having your conversations be about the customer's success, prioritizing value you plan to deliver according to their needs, and aligning as much as you can with what they need and want in the priority order they need and want it will lead to success for both you and them.

Shifting focus from who you are and what you do to who the customer is and what they need and want is hard! It's so fundamental to building a successful business, but it's also incredibly rare.

Do it in your business and watch what happens!

It's Your Own Fault!

The age of the Internet, with always-on ubiquitous connectivity to everyone, has created a friction-free path to exposing the worst of people: attacking others for their own failure. It's ugly and mean, but ultimately only smears the person doing the attacking. I saw an example just today posted to a support site for an app I really enjoy. The smear didn't just complain about the app, but used an expletive and called it the "worst ... app ever." Now, this is obviously an exaggeration. And the expletive just gave it a bigger barb to do greater damage to the indie developer who wrote the app. It worked. The developer was hurt by the attack, although he responded with grace and humility in the best way possible, and that's really hard to do. I already respected him. I now respect him even more.

That said, what's behind this is an attitude that may be missed, so I'd like to underscore it: many people today want to blame others for the consequences of their choices, but only when they don't like them.

So, in this case, for some reason, the customer bought the app but doesn't like it. I'm not sure why. I love it. But, to each his own. Regardless, even though he can easily get a refund from the Apple App Store, he chose to blast the developer and the app on Twitter. Instead of owning that he bought something that he doesn't like, or going on to the developer's (very active) support site to get help, he just slammed it on social media.

When I read it, I just thought, "Here's a guy who isn't willing to accept the consequences of his choices and expects others to agree that they are wrong and then fix them when he doesn't like it."

This isn't healthy. It hurts the one who is using it to feel better. It represents an abdication that cannot actually be made: your life is your life. Your choices are your choices.

"I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day." --James Joyce (1882-1941)

When we try to blame our consequences (regardless of how harsh or challenging) on someone or something else, we give up our power. We convince ourselves that we cannot control the outcomes of our lives. Instead, we try to stay risk-free and "undo" the consequences that turn out different than we expect or want.

But, it never works. And therein lies the rub.

We know. Under it all, we know what we did, we know what we deserve as consequences, and over time it eats away at our character. Our integrity is stained by the cheating. Even if no one else sees it, we know. And we die a little each time.

Take back your power. Own your choices and their consequences. Succeed on your own merit.

Customer Success

When you apply this reality to customer success, you begin to see a few things. One of them is that the old adage "The customer is always right" is clearly false. This is the first principle I discuss in my customer relationship success program. While the customer isn't always right, it's critically important to show respect and humility. This is a first step towards success as a business, especially in the age of the Internet.