What happens when technology forgets its role as the enabler of consumer adoption

I have recently come across two examples related to the railways which highlights what happens when technology drives customer improvements rather than customer improvements or propositions being enabled by technology – and there is a difference.

We fundamentally believe that if you start with the customer, the solution is a better outcome and commercially more sustainable profit for the business. Any other starting point will get found out by competitors or customers soon enough.

It’s a view our clients, who include Hiscox, Radisson and William Hill understand, but not TfL or Greater Anglia it would seem….

The ticket barrier that thinks tickets are beneath it

ticket machineLexden is based in W1, London. I travel into the office on the days we are not on site with a client or attending a customer inspired event outside of London, so I buy a daily ticket. When I jump off the train at Tottenham Hale I need to show my rail ticket before entering the underground. This used to mean flashing it at a guard who often said good morning too, which was nice.

These have recently been upgraded to ticket barriers. The platform master who used to check the tickets instead now reminds commuters, ‘this way through the ticket barriers to the underground please’.

The only problem is when I get to the ticket barrier (as mentioned, the brand new ticket barrier) I am faced with a ticket stuck over the ticket checker device and directed to the barrier guard to see the guard I used to see who now has a queue of 20 deep very disgruntled customers who have headed for the machines to find unless they have an oyster type rail passes they need to queue. On the basis Oyster style passes doesn’t yet exist for Greater Anglia passengers, that means everyone.

Logic suggests Oyster style train passes are coming to this rail company. But for now, tickets are used. That hasn’t stopped the technologists and the commercialists getting together and deciding because the technology is there they will save money and redeploy the head count.

In fact the only loser in the equation is the passenger. But given ‘passenger experience’ is a futuristic concept to many in this sector (excluding Virgin Trains), it’s an inevitable outcome.

More of this ‘one step forward and two steps back’ process improvement approach and passengers will be hankering after the bygone era of clipped tickets and guards on the basis of efficiency, courtesy of over keen, underprepared technology.

The new payment disease invented by technologists set to make commuters more miserable

card clash

It relates to a new payment technology launch. The amusing thing is that whilst the technology has been around for a number of years the launch is actually leading with a new problem the technology capability will provide for the consumer and delivers the message as if it’s acceptable now to launch with inadequacy.

The ad is announcing the forthcoming launch of contactless on the underground. This means debit cards and credit cards can be used for TfL travel payments. Yippee. All good so far.

But that’s not what the ad is about. It focuses on telling passengers that they should change a habit of a recent lifetime and separate payments and travel cards on their person when they travel, otherwise they run the risk of having multiple payments taken at the same time for one journey. Like a virus, it already has its own name; Card Clash.

Now the customer experience (CX) consultant in me knows the importance of ‘managing expectations’ with any launch – box ticked. However, the customer value proposition (CVP) consultant in me also knows the importance of ‘betterment, congruence and risk avoidance’ that must be loaded into new launches.

Which begs two questions:

  1. How can this be better if it actually creates problems the old solution didn’t?
  2. Why didn’t the providers (TfL, Oyster?) spend time fixing the problem instead of writing ads to apologise for the problem?

I’m assuming the bigger picture is that Oyster will phase out shortly (or the unordinary thinker in me wonders if the opportunity lies for Oyster to launch as a state owned bank with a focus on commuters needs), but as it stands this launch fails the most basic CVP business case scorecards.

With the TfL decision to reduce the ticket office capacity, and the inevitable increase of card problems this launch will cause, it could be a confrontational time ahead for TfL. Or as consumers are involved here, they will possibly work these things out for themselves and decide that things are just fine the way they are making adoption a more expensive challenge than it need be.

For now I will grin and bear the inadequacy and the inefficiency which have become the hall mark of the 21st century passenger railways. It may appear mean but I have faith in the railways, I know one day they will one day be the subject of  a positive post from me or my peers.

Posted by Christopher Brooks

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency | We put customers at the start and the heart of marketing strategy

We work with brands to attract and retain happy customers | We achieve this by helping them to understand what makes their customers tick, building memorable customer experience strategies and creating engaging customer value propositions.

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to our monthly ‘Putting Customers First’ newsletter. Or for a discussion on how we may be able to help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 (0)7968 316548You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook  and Twitter @consultingchris 

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “What happens when technology forgets its role as the enabler of consumer adoption

  1. Meredith

    Reblogged this on Have Experience, Will Travel and commented:
    Ah, the troubles of shiny new objects versus what consumers actually want (or need). As I read through Christopher’s post, many other such examples of businesses chasing technology, rather than understanding consumer behavior come to mind. The cardinal rule of Consumer Experience is to start with the consumer FIRST and then work to find solutions or novel ways of designing to improve the experience. Technology may…or may not…be the answer.

    Reply
  2. Lexden Post author

    Meredith, many thanks for your comment. I wondered if your reference to Consumer FIRST was intended to promote our own Customer First newsletter we produce and would be delighted to send you. I am glad you are in agreement about the role of technology. It does seem to be travel and technology that seem to have a love-hate relationship. I’ll follow your blog and look forward to reading more gems on this problem.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s