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Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

Published: Jun 09, 2017
Author: Erin Van Remortel


Airlines are taking quite a beating in the press these days so I hate to jump on the bandwagon, but ... on a flight home from a business trip a few weeks ago, I experienced an “innovation” that left me completely bemused.

I was at the front of the plane and one of the first to buy a drink. The flight attendant took my card and ran it over her handheld device. I remember thinking how nice and new it looked. Then she handed me the device and I was presented with options to leave a tip — of 5, 10,15 or 20%. When did we start having to tip flight attendants? My surprise must have been obvious because the attendant leant over and said, “This screen is optional. You can swipe left for the signature screen.” And so I swiped, signed and passed the device back. I heard her having to explain the same thing over and over again as she moved down the rows.

Why did this airline make this change in process? It made no sense to me. At a time when people are talking about the end of tipping, why would you introduce this kind of technology in a scenario you’d never expect it? From my perspective, all it achieved was a delayed service, confused customers and unhappy employees. Did the airline’s decision makers stop at any time and put themselves in their customers’ shoes? Or even their flight attendants’? I’m guessing not.

Look through a customer lens

Around a week after my flight, I attended the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) Insights conference — a great event for CX professionals with tons of case studies and information on best practices. One of the keynotes I saw was by a senior executive of product innovation at Southwest Airlines. Her speech was incredibly inspiring on many levels, but one thing she said really struck a chord with me. At least one day a week, if she’s not on the road, she spends time at the Southwest terminal or on a Southwest flight. She spends this time observing — looking at the experience the airline is providing through a customer lens. In doing so, she finds areas for improvement in unexpected places, areas where her team can innovate to make a real difference to the customer journey. Fantastic. Imagine if the airline I flew with had this kind of approach — would they have implemented the tip screen?

Technology is enabling many cool, innovative capabilities that most of the time do add value and improve the customer experience. Thumbprint device authentication and mobile check deposit are great examples of innovations that have removed friction from our everyday lives. But not every innovation has the same impact.

Don’t innovate for the sake of it

Here’s another example of a recent “innovation” I encountered that made no sense to me from a CX perspective. I love my mobile banking app. As a working mum of two, I don’t have time to queue at the bank to make a payment or deposit a check. And my banking app means I don’t have to. But recently I noticed an extra function that baffles me. After I transfer money, I get a notification asking if I’d like to post this on social media. Really? Why would anyone want to tell the world they just completed a transfer? This seems silly — but worse, it could even create a risk to my privacy if I tapped the share icon by accident.

The crazy thing is, the people that come up with these ideas are customers like you and me. Yet they seem blind to their customer lens.

My plea to all the innovators out there is: take time to walk in your customers’ shoes. Experience the solution or process you’ve created through your customer lens. Don’t just implement a piece of technology or “innovative” idea because it’s cool or because all your competitors are doing it. Implement it because it improves CX. And if the journey isn’t improved or is actually worse, stop! Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.


Erin Van Remortel is a certified Customer Experience Professional (CXPA) and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt at Verizon Communications, a leading provider of wireless, fiber-optic and global network services.  As a Principal Client Partner, Erin works with Verizon’s largest enterprise clients to articulate, design, and implement their Customer Experience strategy and vision.