I visited a museum at the weekend – just scraping in on the last day of a heavily-promoted, blockbuster exhibition.
As I waited at the ticket desk, I noticed that, despite there being a queue, only one team member was selling tickets – and yet there were four team members behind the desk. Two of the other three were having a chat; the other was (there’s no other word for it) slumped in her chair, staring into space.
I waited, passing the time by looking at the digital display screen above the heads of the team members. It crossed my mind that the screen had probably cost upwards of £10,000 – not including the ongoing cost of creating content and keeping it up to date.
After a few minutes, during which time the queue had grown, the first team member looked up and announced that there was a problem – would we kindly go to the third floor and buy our tickets there?
As we obediently trooped up the stairs, I wondered how, on such a big day (last day of a blockbuster exhibition, remember), there was so little energy, so little customer focus on display.
Arriving at the exhibition ticket desk, as I bought my ticket, I noticed that the team member did not offer me the option to pay 10% extra – which, had I done so, both the museum and I would have benefited from the Gift Aid scheme. Nor was I offered the exhibition catalogue.
I noticed that the shop at the end of the exhibition was poorly merchandised – there was a considerable amount of related product (and plenty of catalogues!) but it just didn’t look very appealing. The team member behind the till looked disinterested too.
The exhibition was great – I’d recommend it to you, but it’s over!
Also over is the massive opportunity the museum had to maximise its return on investment, including:
- Investment in staging the exhibition
- Investment in marketing the exhibition
- Investment in employing those six team members
- Investment in that digital display screen
Set against that was the lost potential income, including:
- Income from Gift Aid
- Income from catalogue sales
- Income from upselling museum memberships, or (for example) offering vouchers to spend in the shop or cafe
Why does this matter?
It matters because these few observations are just the tip of the iceberg. Multiply those missed opportunities by the number of visitors to the exhibition (the museum as a whole received over 800,000 visitors in 2015) and you start to see the scale of what accountants call the “opportunity cost” – in other words, what that investment could have generated.
The digital display screen is a useful metaphor for generally investing in physical infrastructure and technology in order to drive the visitor experience. The approach frequently taken by customer-facing businesses is to invest as heavily as possible in these items. After all, they argue (reasonably), whatever we create needs to be as good as it possibly can be. It needs to be “state of the art”. The more expensive it is, the better it is – or at least, if it’s any good, it’s bound to be expensive.
But – unless the investment in people is also sufficient to create “state of the art” outcomes, it is impossible to maximise return on investment in physical and tech. And, too often, investment in the former (people) gets squeezed by the cost of the latter (physical and tech).
The answer, however, is fairly simple. The investment you make in your people must deliver the following:
- Hire the nicest people you can find
- Give them a breathtaking induction to your organisation
- Give them a training experience that will give you total confidence that they will do their very best to maximise every opportunity to delight the customer
- Communicate with them so well that they remain engaged and motivated at all times
- Aim to reward them, retain them, develop them and build a culture that will affect everyone in the organisation
I call this approach POSITIVE Leadership. I’ve developed programmes and tools that help organisations to achieve POSITIVE results.
It starts by identifying what the Customer Experience is costing the organisation. Once you know that, the fun can begin – you can start to build a programme to maximise return on investment. I call this “Project STARS”.
The key to it is – don’t think only of the return you need on your investment in “training”: think rather of the return you need on your total investment. In other words, the first question to ask is: “Do you know what your Customer Experience is really costing you?”
If you’d like to know more, do get in touch.
Stephen Spencer is a keynote speaker, business coach and consultant, helping organisations create better Customer Experiences to unlock team and profit potential. He has over 25 years’ experience as a leader, trainer and experience developer with some of the UK’s most prestigious Retail, Tourism and Hospitality brands. Sign up for Stephen’s POSITIVE Customer Experience newsletter here.