Yesterday, @sweetsudha1 shared this hilarious evolution of Deepavali wishes over the years.
As I laughed, I realized she had shared something very profound.
Over time, Technology has rendered full-service transactions into self-service transactions. We are good with this transition – it saves us time, effort, and costs. We had to visit Banks for withdrawals. ATMs made this more accessible as we just had to drive over to the nearest kiosk with our Card. Desktops allowed us to do our transactions from home – so we didn’t have the bother of going to the ATM now. And today, Mobile apps enable you to transact anywhere – and you don’t even need to type stuff, you can just talk, and the App will do your bidding. It’s hard to see where this evolution isn’t helpful. Lower costs, convenience – on any parameter, it comes out on tops. You can extend this to other areas – taxis (hail a cab from your Uber app instead of going to the taxi stand), shopping (amazon as opposed to the store), food (have it cooked and delivered to your taste as opposed to visiting the restaurants). All full services are becoming productized – and we are the beneficiary.
But in her tweet, there is a fascinating context. Deepavali is a festival, a period of leisure and friendship. Leisure demands our attention – that’s what makes it worthwhile. You stroll to the beach – for walking – there’s no other reason. If adventure travel is your thing – you do it because you like it. If you take the effort and the personal touch out of the interaction, you render the experience sterile. It’s worth ensuring that we don’t end up killing the experience while attempting to productize a hobby!
Companies like IKEA use experience (drive to the big warehouse on the outskirts of town, choose and transport the furniture components to your home and then build the table yourself) as their differentiator for business too. The customer pays for the experience of building stuff – for the customer’s experience and sense of fulfillment.
I’ll leave you with that thought. I feel we should be careful about productizing “personal” experiences out of the equation. Doing so may risk robbing us of our identity – we come alive when we interact with people and celebrate – we are a social animal after all!
You learn a lot of good things doing the most mundane things. I travelled yesterday on Indigo, one of the several so called no-frills airplanes yesterday, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the amount of thoughtfulness and innovation they embraced.
It started off at the check in counter. She looked up my name and asked me if I would like the same seat as I had requested last time (Aisle, front rows). I asked her if she had a window and she said, there’s one – but at the very end – would that be ok? The transaction if you note leveraged analytics (history of my earlier transactions), personalized recommendations (and with a default option – you can choose but if you prefer not too, there’s an informed choice available) and when I had a clarification. she provided some insight into the pros and cons of that decision. Very simple you feel – and I agree – and this was one of the best check in experiences I had had combining efficiency and personalization.
The flight started on time (big deal in India!) and interestingly the airline had bundled complimentary meals for all corporate flyers. Very simple if you think about it – but its a win-win really – and for a commercial traveler hurrying to catch his flight after a long trip and looking to get home at the earlier, these are big plusses indeed.
The surprises didn’t end there – just ahead of the landing, there was the usual communication on please switch off your laptops etc. However there was a simple twist (or maybe it was common, but I noticed it for the first time!) – the hostess reminded all those working on laptops to “remember to save their work” before switching them off. Thoughtful.
And the best part came right after. The last part of every flight ritual is where the hostess comes to collect any bottles/ packages etc. and is preceded by the usual announcement that the flight is about to land and hence this ask. The Indigo folks however told us they wanted their customers to enjoy the experience, and one of the ways they could best do was by “turning the flight around well in time – so could we please hand over any bottles etc. to make this possible?”. Great messaging.
Most business think cheaper, better (as in higher quality, not necessarily quality of experience!) and faster. I’d feel if they added “thoughtfulness” to the list of desired attributes, they’d end up making more of their customers smile in appreciation. You agree?