It clearly was about the customer *NOT*

Subject for the curious and impatient: I have no freaking clue why some companies will list the MOST useless things as perks and screw up (or neglect) so many other things that just should be taken care of because they deliver CUSTOMER VALUE.

I have to get this off my chest. As I’m writing this post I am returning from Lean Kanban France 2012. There is a very good high-speed train connection between Amsterdam and Paris so I chose the train over plane or car. The reason why is pretty simple:

  • It’s relatively fast (3.5 hours) to get to downtown Paris
  • Its pretty cheap (from about 40EU for a one way ticket)
  • Even in second class you get a decent seat with power outlet and depending on your ticket class you get free WIFI.

This means that my need to be able to do work, rest or relax at a low price is met with relative ease. And on my way to Paris that need was more than satisfied (I fell asleep while watching a movie).

Then this afternoon (the day of my departure) I was looking up some stuff on the NS Highspeed (the train company) website. I was trying to find out why I could upgrade to a 1st class ticket for around 3 euro and what extra this would gain me. The price of the upgrade is not really the interesting thing here. A class upgrade for 3 euro is kind of a no brainer to me. The interesting thing is that if you look on the website you will find some perks for the “New and improved Thalys”. Thalys being the name of the train service.

This is what they believe will convince me to buy a ticket (I assume, based on what’s on their website):

  • Comfortable and modern interior
  • New culinary offerings, served with newly styled tableware
  • Improved technology
  • New uniforms for personnel

For convenience I’ll just ignore the fact that “improved technology” doesn’t tell me anything about how it increases my (customer) experience or even what that technology does or improves.

But seriously…

IN WHAT UNIVERSE ARE NEWLY STYLED TABLEWARE AND NEW UNIFORMS FOR PERSONNEL THINGS THAT MAKE ME BUY A TRAIN TICKET??????

If there has been any market research that indicates that the tableware redesign into this (picture) style or new personnel uniforms make a difference* I would love to see it.

*I know what you are thinking but no. The staff isn’t 6ft tall blond haired bikini models that used to wear long skirts and baggy sweaters that now all of sudden wear tiny bikinis (nor the male equivalent of that)!

I sincerely doubt there is such research. And actually the experience was not that good at all. The food I got in first class was COLD. It tasted horrible. Same for the coffee. I’d rather have them not give me any food than go through this again.

So here’s my message from a customer perspective:

  • Make sure that what you do is up to an acceptable level. It doesn’t always have to positively surprise me, but it should never disappoint (especially if I’m paying extra)
  • I don’t give a single flying [insert profanity here] about the fact that you have redesigned your TABLEWARE. I’ve seen it. I’m not impressed, just curious how ugly and useless it must have been before.
  • I give the exact amount of flying thingies about that you had the decency to actually provide your employees with new clothes. It’s nice and you should be nice to your people. But it won’t improve train ride directly. If I’m lucky I will notice it in the cheery disposition of the people working in the train.

Don’t act like you are proud to supply me with useless perks. They’re of no direct value to me. If the fish you were serving me was actually warm that would have been one of the things I wanted for my meal. You could have spend the time and money you used for redesigning the tableware to heat my diner.

Do not spend time and money on things that don’t create value. It’s useless. Without customers you would be out of a job. Every penny or cent that you spend on not creating customer value is WASTE. So make conscious choices about what you spend your money on. Please keep that in mind when somebody in your company or team proposes to redesign the tableware.