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Thursday, August 27, 2009

I learn to carry cash again.

I slowed down on posts last week, mostly because I was vacationing at a cottage in Northern Ontario.

No cell coverage, no internet, no data feed to my Blackberry – in other words, it was great.

Not surprisingly, local businesses operate with the same level of information connectivity, which is to say, not much. After the second time I arrived at a restaurant to see a “No Visa / MasterCard / Debit. Cash Only.” sign, I caught on and started carrying money for the first time in years.

Now, I’m the first person to say that a key component of a successful business is to make it easy for customers to pay you for the services they consume. At the same time, it was interesting to see how transacting in cash changed the service experience. It took longer to take money, do the math, make change, and return it than the “swipe & sign” we’ve become accustomed to. (I don’t care what Tim Horton’s says on this matter) In that time, dialogue inevitably occurred, and the result was richer touches than the mechanical credit payment process. The extended interactions were welcome and I enjoyed talking to hardworking people about their days.

Of course, I could be wrong on the cause of the positive interactions in this case.

It is entirely possible that the conversations surrounding the service interactions were deeper because I was in a small community where life is a little slower and people more attuned to consideration of others.

It could be the halo effect of me being on vacation and free from all of the other electronic connectivity shackles we have imposed upon ourselves. I did have a lot of time on my hands.

Regardless of the cause, however, the lesson applies:

When designing service processes, take into account the frame of mind the customer has and the feeling you want to leave them with at every stage.

If your experience is built on quality and depth of interaction, then a little thing like how a customer pays for and completes the service is not a little thing at all. You may want to personalize the interaction, or even extend it beyond what it operationally possible in terms of efficiency.

If the experience is built around customer efficiency of completing the interaction and moving on, such as at a drive thru, configure your processes to aid in that.

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