32 posts categorized "Customer Experience"

March 21, 2013

Pain on the Plane Again - Why Air Travel is Still The Worst Customer Experience


You may remember my post Pains, Planes & Automobiles from 2009 where I lambasted the customer experience of Air Travel. Three years on is it any better?

I book online and it's a breeze, but I do notice that they now charge per item of baggage. This actually suits us as with 4 young children we don't need to pay for six items of luggage - so I book 4 which cuts the price down. We get up to 23kg per item of luggage. Our toddler is free but he has to sit on a lap. I suggest to my wife that should be her, which earns me a look that could turn milk.

Well since 2009, Sydney Airport hasn't moved - nor has a much discussed 2nd Sydney Airport been built. This means that we still have to make the 15km drive to the airport on the other side of Sydney. Doesn't sound far, does it? But this is Sydney we are talking about - with it's hideous traffic and 3rd world road network). We are so terrified that we'll get stuck in traffic we set off 3 hours before our flight. That's a domestic flight where we have to be there 45 mins prior to the flight departure time.

One improvement is that I book the parking online this time - and it's considerably cheaper for twice the duration

I take a different route from 3 years ago - it costs me more but we arrive at the airport in plenty of time (thanks to my GPS and my e-tag which speeds me through the toll roads). I drop off the wife and kids at the front door and go to long-term parking. Somehow I manage to drive past the entrance to the parking and have to double back. That annoys me as I was looking for a road sign which I couldn't see - but I later notice that the car park (named "Blue Emu") is festooned with giant banners of Blue Emus all over it so I blame my "man vision" for that one. The car park has been improved by the addition of animal names so you can remember where you have parked. I park in section C - "Craig the Koala" so I can't possibly forget where I have to return 2 weeks later. I can't help but think that it should be "Craig the Crocodile", but "crocodile" is hard to fit on a sign...

So far so good and I am whisked away from the bus stop to the airport within 5 minutes so I am back with my waiting hoard in just 15 minutes.

We have already checked in and picked our seats and as we are 2 hours early the bag drop queue is only 5 minutes long. This time we can take our baby buggy to the gate (last time we couldn't) but the bad news is that despite us having 2 tiny cases and one medium sized case our large case is over 23kg's and we are charged $40. Previously Virgin would simply add up the luggage total and divide by the number of bags - not so, anymore. Any bag over 23kg's is charged an excess. I ask the check-in lady if this has changed recently and she says it changed about a year ago. Nice of them to make that obvious. I'm seriously pissed off. Customer experience dissatisfaction #1.

So with time to kill we grab a coffee and some breakfast. The airport chiche of bad, overpriced food unfortunately still holds true. Customer experience dissatisfaction #2.

After breakfast we make our way to the gate - when we arrive there are no seats left so we have to stand. I don't really mind as there is a large space where our kids can run around in circles annoying other passengers, but I feel sorry for others who stand looking at screens with thousand yard stares, waiting for the golden moment when "boarding" appears. Customer experience dissatisfaction #3.

We board the plane and hand our buggy over - all is good and we take our seats. I'm impressed that the aircraft is new and that all of the seats have entertainment devices which have games, TV and movies. The kids are very excited by this. Big. Improvement. Pity none of the headsets work properly so we sit with buzzing in our ears for 5 hours. Customer experience dissatisfaction #4.

Drinks arrive fairly promptly after take-off, but as the tray tables slope downwards my son's drink slides off the table and into my lap. Nothing like having a giant orange juice stain to make you look like a seasoned traveller. I ask the steward why the tray tables slope and he says that "people keep leaning on them". Funny that, people actually using the tray tables. Food arrives a short time later and the quality is reasonable but I have to hold my son's food tray while he eats as it keeps sliding off the table. This is not fun when you consider how long children can take to eat food.  Customer experience dissatisfaction #5.

After 5 hours of swapping a squirming, tired toddler between our laps we finally arrive at our destination. We pick up our suitcases and buggy promptly (marvelling at how tiny and pleasant Perth airport is). I do have to pay $4 for a trolley to take me the 200m across the road to the car rental pickup, however. I am old enough to still remember the porters who would cheerfully collect your luggage at Glasgow airport and take it to check-in for you in the 1970's. For Free!Customer experience dissatisfaction #6.

I follow the instructions on the hire car company email to go to the meeting point and to call the number to arrange to meet the rep. I am told on the phone where the car is and given a code to collect the key inside the glove box (there is no rep!). I like this system but it could have been improved if they'd have emailed or sent me an SMS of the details. The instructions could have been updated thereby eliminating a breakpoint and requiring minimal human intervention (reduced cost for the hire car company). I collect the car and all is good except that they haven't marked any of the damage on the report form. It looks like the car has been used for dodgem practice so I spend 10 minutes writing down the 300 dents and scratches. I also find it strange that they provide cash to pay for the car park. As they've dropped off the car too early I have to pay more for the car park than the cash they have left. Customer experience dissatisfaction #7.

We have a great two week holiday but the real pain starts on the return leg. I receive a handy email advising that I can check-in 48 hours prior - even using their new mobile service! So I try to check in via my iphone and receive and error. I try on an ipad and a PC and still receive an error. Check in at the airport it tells me. I check my mother in via mobile with no problem. I must be special. Customer experience dissatisfaction #8.

I call Virgin customer service. I can't understand the girl as she's speaking pigeon English and have to ask her to slow down. She tells me she doesn't know why I can't check in. I tell her I don't care as long as she can check me in. She says she can't check me in but she can reserve seats for me. Yes, that's right. She can't check me in. Customer experience dissatisfaction #9. I decide that I'll check us in at the web kiosk at the airport then use the bag drop.

1 day prior to our flight I receive both an email and a text to say that our flight is delayed (I don't mind as it means extra sleep!) I appreciate the notification.

We arrive at the airport, drop the car off (following the easy instructions), pay for another trolley (urgh!) and make our way inside. As I had feared the check-in queue was hideous so I made my way to the kiosk to check in. Ahhh...the kiosk - so devoid of the inadequacies of inert customer service staff.


"Check-in for this flight has closed" it tells me. Noooooooooooooo. It appears that the virgin system hasn't accounted for the flight change so has closed the check-in an hour earler than it needed to. Either that or the flight is on time and check-in really is closed. Now I'm in a panic. Customer experience dissatisfaction #10.

I join the hideous queue which take 20 minutes to get through to us being checked in. Customer experience dissatisfaction #11. But we do check in - with no excesses this time due to careful packing.

We are late so rush to the gate (which now looks like some sort of war zone) with people queueing everywhere. Customer experience dissatisfaction #12. We board and pass our buggy to a helpful virgin member of staff who says "I'll take care of that for you".

We have an uneventful flight other than the usual sloping trays and spilling drinks. The kids are well behaved apart from our toddler who persists in throwing himself in front of the drinks trolley like a lemming. The staff smile politely. I was delighted to see that they changed the headphones to a new brand - unfortunately they no longer fit in children's ears so my three kids have to hold the earplugs in their ears the entire 5 hour flight. Cue whingeathon. Customer experience dissatisfaction #13

We land and depart to the horror that is Sydney Airport on a Saturday afternoon. We pick up our bags - well we try to - one of them isn't there. We wait, and wait. Suspiciously there is a bag with a similar tag as ours hypnotically doing laps of the carousel until it is the only one left. The painful realisation that some numbnut has taken our bag slowly sinks in. I panic knowing that the suitcase contains my twin boys' favourite stuffed animals, which they love more than me. I rush to the virgin bagage desk only to find my wife there reporting that our buggy is also lost not having turned up at excess baggage. Customer experience dissatisfaction #14.

We wait 1 hour until a rugby shirt wearing Mr Potato head lookalike turns up with our case. My eyes glaze over as he tells me his reasons for picking up a case which is neither the same make, brand, size, shape or colour. Apology accepted, now please leave me alone as I want to die having been at baggage collection for an hour and a half with 4 grumpy, hungry children fighting over a stale cookie scraped from the bottom of my wife's handbag. It still seems strange to me that anyone can walk up and take a bag full of thousands of dollars worth of goods so easily. Customer experience dissatisfaction #15.

Our buggy is still lost and the virgin staff tell us "we have tons of them - we can give you another one if you like". Nice to know they are so regularly lost! She wheels out what looks like a brand new super deluxe buggy which we dash out of the airport with before someone finds it. Bonus. It almost makes up for the pain.

Finally I go to the car park - well I try but I can't find the bus stop. I hunt up and down. There are plenty of signs but none of them have a "you are here" dot on them so it's impossible to know where I am. I see the bus sailing past. I want to cry! I eventually find a security guard who points me in the right direction.  Customer experience dissatisfaction #16.

There is no pick up at the terminal so we have to walk hundreds of metres to a pick-up area before I finally get on the bus and return to pick them up.

9 hours of travel (only 4 of which were on a plane) and we are finally home.

It's good that we had 3 years between flights - it allowed us time to forget what was and still is a hideous customer experience from start to finish.



February 22, 2013

Videos - Outside-in Thinking Meets BPM

These videos from BPM Guru Steve Towers provide a great introduction to some of the key elements of the CEM Method.


Cheers, TPN

February 07, 2013

Free Whitepaper: Linking Process, Procedures & Business Requirements to Successful Customer Outcomes

Those of you who enjoyed my previous article "Linking Process, Procedures & Business Requirements to Successful Customer Outcomes - a Business Analyst Guide" will love my free whitepaper which is available from the Orbus Website. It's an expanded version of that post.

You will have to register with Orbus to download the whitepaper but they also have some really great content on their website including visio stencils.



November 14, 2012

A Guide to Running Process Improvement Workshops

I run a lot of workshops these days – I find that they are the most efficient way of getting to the heart of processes and improving them. I’ve seen people spend months doing depth interviews with staff only to have projects shut down before they’ve even get near to identifying improvements. That’s tragic and very avoidable. What can be accomplished in a well structured workshop can eliminate weeks or even months of unnecessary activity. Here’s how to get it right.

Before You Start

Don’t waste time planning too much. Against my will I was once made to write a 25 page document on how to run some workshops – it delayed the project by 3 months. Workshops aren’t complicated so don’t make them so. Create a spreadsheet with all your workshops, times, rooms booked and attendees. That’s all you need – don’t overbake the cake.

Pick your workshop room carefully. Find the biggest room with the longest walls – you’ll need them!

Identify all staff involved with the
It’s really important to get a cross section of staff that are involved end-to-end (that’s the customer experience of the process). You want staff that do the actual work – not managers or

Create a slide pack to guide you through the workshop. It will help you focus on the key stages and will avoid you missing anything and looking like a plumb.

Buy materials. You’ll need lots of 3M super stickies and a big roll of good quality brown paper, some blu-tak and some market pens. A whiteboard and whiteboard pens can also be handy.

Pick the right attendees. It may sound warm and fuzzy to ask the business who they want to attend but chances are they’ll send you people who aren’t busy rather than the staff you really want. What you want are people who know the process but who want to make things better.

Explain to staff what process you are looking at and what you want to achieve. It will make them feel more comfortable. Let them know they’ll be needed as early as possible.

Have a spreadsheet ready to capture the process details and a scribe there to capture them. Your job is to focus on facilitation not typing!

The Day Before

Set up the room by sticking up 3 sheets of brown paper as long as you can along the wall.

Set up chairs so that they all face the brown paper rather than behind desks. This helps to make the session less formal and more interactive. Ensure that your projector screen is set up in a manner which makes it easy for them to pivot around and see.

DO NOT put any processes up on the wall! This limits their thinking!

On the day

Set the scene by talking about the scope of the process. Identify what outcomes the process has (from a customer point of view).

Identify the current process. Give each person a pack of sticky notes and individually ask them to write down their own interpretation of the process (no collaboration!) Merge all the individual processes together to create one agreed end-to-end process.

Probe, ask questions, identify missing tasks until you are comfortable that everything has been identified. Check that nothing has been missed. Get the scribe to document all the steps in the process. Gather task timings so that you can calculate cost per process before and after.

Tear it to shreds – encourage them to question everything and to rework the process with the focus on eliminating activities. If it can’t be eliminated, improve it. Get the scribe to document all potential improvements in an action plan. Coax, cajole, prod, suggest – but never tell them what they should do.

Take plenty of breaks, have a laugh, give them plenty of sugar, make jokes, do a silly dance – push them beyond their current scope of thinking – for that way the land of process innovation



June 25, 2012

Download My Free eBook - The Best of The Process Ninja 2008-2012

I'm delighted to announce that I have created an eBook of my best blog posts from the past 4 years.

It's a handly little PDF (3.2Mb) that you can read anywhere.

Simply click here to enter a few short details and to download.

I hope you enjoy it.



February 23, 2012

The Importance of Process in Everything Businesses Do (Video)


This video on the PEX Network is the best video I've ever seen that encapsulates the importance of process.

It's a must watch.

Tell your friends, tell the world, the process revolution is here...


February 04, 2012

Putting the Super in Supermarket Processes

I was fortunate to be asked to contribute to an article in the Herald Sun late last year entitled "
Express too slow? Try the slow queue to speed things up"

I enjoy looking at retail processes but still surprised that Australia lags so far behind the rest of the world.



May 31, 2011

Linking Process, Procedures & Business Requirements to Successful Customer Outcomes - a Business Analyst Guide

"Go out to the business and gather their requirements!"

How many times do we hear this said? 

When I hear this being it immediately fills me with dread; images of men in suits wandering through dark forests without maps, looking for mushrooms...needles in haystacks and the like (you get the idea...)

What generally happens in these situations is that business analysts go away and do just that - gather requirements - what the business thinks they want. Typically what this results in is a giant rambling document written in a pseudo business / IT speak that the business say they can't read and the IT guys say isn't detailed enough for them to build from. So the BA goes away and creates a functional spec which the IT guys love, but by this point in time it has morphed so far from what the business want, they have a heart attack when they see the final product!

"That's not what we wanted!" they say!

"But that's what you told us!" say the BA's and IT guys!

It doesn't have to be this hard. Here's how you do it:

1. Define the successful customer outcome(s)

What is it that the customer really needs? What does the business need to do to meet those needs?

2. Define the process scope

Establish what the process actually is from the customer's perspective - current state (if a current state exists!). Don't take the business's word for it - their interpretation of what a process is may be radically different to yours. Document the process at a high level (e.g. SIPOC) - confirm with the business. Tick in box from business? 

3. Define the current process

Proceed to document the process at a task level. Don't waste too much time on the as-is if you are going to change the process! Photos of sticky notes on a wall is sufficient. Tick in box from business?

4. Improve the process / define new process

List all the tasks in the current process and eliminate or improve tasks focussing on the outcomes required. If a new process, sticky note the tasks required to achieve the outcomes required with the minimal amount of activities. Don't just consider "sunny day processes" where everything goes right - consider everything that can go wrong! Look at the paths from every business rule in your process! Consider all process permutations!

5. Link Process Tasks to Procedural Steps

For each task, create procedural steps - how and why each process step is done rather than what is done. This can be done very simply in a spreadsheet ( For example my Process Ninja Workbook that utilises the CEM Method). What's more, you can then spit it into a procedural document for your staff to use for training and day-to-day operational procedures.

6. Link Procedural Detail to Business Requirements

The procedural detail helps to create a granular level of detail that greatly benefits the creation of specific requirements.  It forces the analyst to think of all possible permutations and options - it forces them to think in the context of the real world, not a gobbledegook business requirements document.

7. Link Business requirements to test scenarios

Use procedural detail and business requirements together to develop test scenarios and use cases - IT can then use these for their unit testing then they can be re-used for user testing. Easy.

8. Build it. Iteratively.

Presuming that there is actually an IT solution involved (and let's face it, there usually is), it's best to adopt an iterative (agile) approach where there are short development cycles with high business involvement. I have seen too many waterfall development disasters in my time.

So in eight steps a Business or Process Analyst can create complete traceability from the customer outcomes to the delivery.

It's not really that hard, but isn't it amazing that so many people can make it seem that way?



May 25, 2011

Whitepaper: Customer Experience Management & Continuous Improvement Program

My buddy David Mottershead aka The Customer Experience Coach has written a short whitepaper entitled "Customer Experience Management & Continuous Improvement Program" 

For those of you looking for some further clarification on Customer Experience Management and the CEM Method, it's well worth a read.



May 16, 2011

Process Black Holes

We've all experienced them. Customers loathe them. Companies don't realise they exist. They suck good sentiment out of your customers and suck money out of your company coffers. I call them "Process Black Holes".

Process black holes are where a process blackspot occurs where one of two things happens:

  1. The process becomes like a pass the parcel game where the passing never stops. It goes round and round passing the piece of work between multiple teams utilising company time and money until the customer gives up (and takes their business elsewhere) or...
  2. The process becomes like a magicians act - POOF! It's gone. Unresolved, uncontactable, unknown - except to your customers - who are building up into a frenzy of discontent. "They're USELESS!" you hear customers say - and they are right. My recent experience with AAMI is a classic example of this.

Process black holes exist because companies don't understand their processes, don't have visibility and dare I say it "management"  of their processes. They are more prevalent in organisations where there are processes that cross more functions (hence more breakpoints) - more opportunities for the process to fail.

So what can we do to rid our organisations of Process Black Holes?

  1. Understand where breakpoints exist (visibility of process)
  2. Eliminate or improve them (redesign functional teams, automate where possible)
  3. Align processes to the customer (eliminate unnecessary activities)
  4. Measure process failure - where are the pain points?
  5. Continually improve - track successes, cost savings and improvement for the customer

Listen to your customers. Listen to your employees. Close those black holes.