Providing a new service option to consumers necessitates giving them an advantage by using it; whether the advantage is convenience, speed of service, access to special percs or many others. If there is no benefit for the consumer, there is no incentive for them to leverage a different service option. Any well run consumer facing organization will seek out opportunities to provide customer benefits to differentiate their business and increase the top line, while leveraging cost streamlining benefits to improve their bottom line.
Here are a few positive examples observed over the past week:
Hertz – I returned my rental car to the Vancouver Airport very early in the morning and had to drop my keys in the slot. A sign on the box indicated that rental receipts are available for download on their website within hours. Based on entering a drivers license or credit card number, the Hertz site provides all receipts over the past 6 months, so I was able to pull all I the statements I needed electronically to complete my travel expenses. Benefit to the consumer? Instant gratification, a paperless transaction, no agent to call to request the receipt, and increased convenience. It also takes effort away from Hertz agents, reducing cost, and making staff available to people that require live assistance. The consumer gets convenience and improved customer service, and the consumer facing organization can leverage cost savings.
Starbucks – I have been looking forward to this sort of application as the future of retail for some time, and it appears that the future is almost now! mFoundry is working with Starbucks on a pilot that will allow mobile based payments via 2d barcodes as well as balance checking and other information for Starbucks card holders. Once again, consumer and retailer obtain benefits from this solution. The consumer has potential for a simplified transaction flow, shorter queues, faster service, and a novelty factor that suits a segment of the Starbucks clientele. Starbucks increases throughput with reduced order and tender time, provides a useful and simple customer service alternative, and aligns themselves more closely with their customers by establishing a hold on one of the most important access points – their customers’ mobile device.
Coca-Cola – I picked up the most recent Fast Company magazine, and read the lead article on Coca-Cola’s David Butler last week. A key component of the article concerns the new Coca-Cola Freestyle soda fountain. In contrast to traditional self service soda fountains located in Quick Service restaurants, the new footprint boasts a digital LCD interface and technology that shrinks the required raw materials allowing users to access over 100 beverage choices instead of the 6 or 8 generally available today. The benefit to the consumer in this case is the vastly expanded product selection. The retailer (and manufacturer) benefit is providing more product selection in the same store footprint, and the capability of leveraging the electronic brain of the soda fountain to ascertain popularity of the beverage options – providing useful and as yet unmined sources of data about consumer preferences in this segment.