"Truly elegant design incorporates top-notch functionality into a simple, uncluttered form." -David Lewis
I consider myself a design devotee. Not of high-end fashion, but the kind that lends itself to functional and seamless customer experiences. So much so that I'm not only in constant pursuit of flawless customer experiences, but I also take note of imperfect ones that stick out like a sore thumb.
In fact, a recent walk through JFK Airport turned up three areas that could use an overhaul. The first is at the self-service check-in kiosks. Why not use these as an opportunity for passengers to order and purchase their food that they'd like to eat on the plane? This way the airlines could properly stock the planes to avoid instances of when passengers are sitting in row 39D and the flight attendant finally reaches them with the refreshments cart and they ask for the turkey sandwich and all that's left are peanuts. Pre-ordering meals will help to create efficiencies and eliminate waste.
Airport bathrooms are another area of frustration for me. If passengers are toting carry-on luggage and bring it into the stalls with them, the stalls are typically not large enough for the bags to fit comfortably, which means people often become lodged between the door and the suitcase as they try to exit.
Finally the security checkpoint would benefit from the addition of a conveyor belt, much like in the grocery stores, so that passengers don't have to stand and wait with their luggage to ensure their bags find their way through the x-ray machine.
I mention these examples, not to pick on airports necessarily, but to draw attention to the importance of walking in your customers' shoes. In the book Outside In, Kerry Bodine and Harley Manning discuss the critical nature of spending time in the customers' environment and discovering how the roots of customer experience success or failure lies deep within your company.
Walking in the customers' shoes is different than obtaining customer feedback and applying qualitative and quantitative analysis as Senior Writer Cynthia Clark highlighted in the article, "Narrowing the Customer Perception Gap." The goal is to understand what problems can be solved for the customer by relating to them and having executives and management spending time in the customer's environment and engaging in face-to-face discussions to learn how the experience by your company touches them from the moment they land on your website or social media channels to when they enter your stores through the point of sale. This journey can uncover nuances that can lead to interesting ideas that shape a company's product design or of customer service strategy.
Understanding the customers' perspective is doubly important in challenging markets like the airlines. Efforts to gain that first-person knowledge will go far in creating an organization that will win, retain, and satisfy more customers. By making the effort to walk in the customers' shoes to see things from their perspective is the key to making their journeys a little bit better.