Looking for Inspiration? Do This

May 13, 2009

nicegraphIf you are an entrepreneur, or working in a company that needs to rethink or redesign processes or products in order to move forward, there are many places to look for inspiration.  In this post, I will name just a few things to look at/read/think about to get all the ideas you need.

  1. Visit a Pret-a-Manger Store. If possible, look up a local Pret and take a trip there during lunch time.  Take in the customer friendly servers, notice how fast the lines are always moving, read the displays underneath every item of food, and check out the unique seating area.  Pret has developed a fun, healthy, and unique brand of fast food.  They have a story to tell, and they tell it in a way the keeps customers coming back time and again.  They make it easy to be healthy, and they make the food buying/eating process fun.
  2. Take a look at JetBlue’s Twitter Page. Go to www.twitter.com/jetblue and read through a couple of the responses and conversations there.  They have fast become one of the better companies to use Twitter, and they do it through updates and customer service.  It is designed for anyone to ask their reps a question and receive a quick answer on flight times, delays, security information, and other miscellaneous facts you may need before a flight.  They are one of the few companies getting this right.
  3. Read an article on Zappos Corporate Culture. Zappos is fast becoming a prime example of how to run a company.  From the way employees are treated, to the initial hiring and training process, to the customer service, Zappos has built a company that people know is fun and generous.  Their employees are taught up front that customers come first, and everyone is in the customer service business, from top to bottom.  Their shoes are not the cheapest, but they have built such strong brand loyalty among existing customers, that the model works.
  4. Go into any TD Bank. TD Bank, after their purchase of Commerce, became “America’s Most Convenient Bank”, borrowing the motto from the bank they acquired.  And if you have ever dealt with one of the branches in any way, you know this is true.  If you belong to the bank, visit with a customer service complaint or question.  If not, visit because you are “thinking about opening a new account”.  And even if you don’t have time to visit, call up.  Recognize how quickly you are greeted and served, and take in the truly personal interactions that you experience.  Things are made easy, and everything you need to get done is done fast, and with a smile.  They make a name for themselves through service, and live up to it every time.
  5. Attend a MacWorld Conference. Apple has done an incredible job creating a following of cult-like loyal customers.  People hang on every word of every announcement they make, and people will buy into products long before they are even made available.  Visit one of these conferences, and even though Apple is no longer officially the focus, you will experience this first hand, and get a chance to hear about and try some of the newest innovations in technology.  It can be a very eye opening experience.

Those are a just a few highlights of what some companies have to offer.  Notice how each one is about a couple of main things: customer service, brand awareness, and loyalty.  These companies have developed their brand through attention to detail and interactions with customers that are above and beyond our expectations.  There is a lot to be learned by experiencing the things that superior companies offer.  What can you do to match this type of success?

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JetBlue Impressions: Good then Bad

February 17, 2009

jetbluepillow2_080408_mn1Back from a short stay in the Dominican Republic and innovation is on my mind.  Of course most of my thoughts are on travel, in general, and how it can be made better/easier/more convenient.  If you missed my post last week on innovative travel service ideas from the road, check it out.

A lot has been said about the struggling airline industry.  And, with a few crashes in the past month, they obviously have some important things to look at.  But they still have yet to really get the business right.  In a recession, people are looking to the companies that help them out.

It was my first time flying JetBlue, and overall I had a very good experience.  Their terminals are big and comfortable and come with many amenities.  The planes are roomier and more comfortable than other airlines that I have flown in the past.  Overall, I see a lot of people praising JetBlue, but they do lose some of us.  Here is where they lost me, or at least their business model lost me.

They advertise special services that you can pay for on the flight.  You can pay $5 for an in flight movie, but they only have 2 choices, and I can’t start and stop it whenever I like.  You can pay $5 for special food or beverages, except they don’t take cash.  And finally, you can pay $7 for a pillow and blanket which they claim is a “State of the art, most comfortable pillow and blanket set ever”.  Are you kidding me?

First of all, thanks to the guy sitting in front of me, I got to see this “magical set” first hand.  Let me tell you this, if you have ever gotten a pillow or blanket on a plane, this was the same or worse.  It was, in no way, more comfortable.  And second of all, the stewardess, along with the advertisement in the brochure, make a big deal out of the fact that you can take it with you when you leave.  Awesome!  I remember when you could take the free ones with you.

A note to all airlines, you’re trying to scam your customers.  I know you operate in a tough industry, but it is one that will always be there.  Air travel is a modern day necessity and it’s not going anywhere.  Figure out how to model your pricing so that you can afford the amenities we want.  Cut down on costs that are dragging you down, perfect the processes that are costing your employees time and money, and get the business back on track.  Some airlines are moving in the right direction, but others are moving backwards.  Wake up.

Readers, take your shot at the airlines that have caused you trouble in the comments section below.

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