Efficiency versus customer experience

In my post-business-school job, I’ll be spending A LOT of time on planes. As such, articles like this one about boarding times pique my interest. It turns out that, at least in simulation models and a controlled experiment, the way some airlines approach boarding is suboptimal in terms of efficiency. In fact, Southwest’s free-for-all approach is more efficient than boarding rear seats first and working your way forward.

However, the optimal approach from an efficiency perspective would be complicated to implement and might be terrible from a CX perspective. In implementing a new boarding process, airlines should carefully consider the tradeoff between efficiency and customer experience. First, it’s not clear that there is currently a CX issue; I doubt most people consider boarding the least pleasant part of flying. Second, speeding up boarding might not increase turnaround times for flights, given everything else that must be done – from refueling to loading baggage to replenishing the beverage carts. That would mean more sitting and waiting.

This prior post about waiting indicates that CX is about perception and may only be loosely correlated with metrics like boarding time. Flyers might be annoyed by boarding inefficiency, but they’re likely to be more annoyed to be all settled in and not taking off. Operating efficiency is a necessary obsession of airlines, but, in such a highly competitive industry, it is also imperative to keep an eye on the CX implications of efficiency-driven decisions.

In short, I’m not sold on the Steffan method … but I do wish airlines would do something about seat kickers and stinky seatmates.

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This entry was posted in Customer behavior, Customer service, Product design. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Efficiency versus customer experience

  1. Jon says:

    After flying internationally, I think there is one proven technique that outperforms all these techniques; let people enter the plane from both ends!

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