AlwaysWoW! For a Great Great WoW in Life

Thoughts from me about things that are cool, that are WoW, that blow me away. Observations about businesses and people from a wide variety of life. Daily encounters - and thoughts outside the box, inside the box and without any box. New thinking, and challenging old thinking. Passionate about life, about respect, and about integrity.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Line management on a cruise

It is always annoying to wait in line somewhere for something. In fact, it seems, that half of our life is spend waiting for something in line. Waiting for the taxi, waiting in cinemas to start with the movie, waiting in the line of McDonalds or KFC, waiting in line in departments that your number is being called and so on - you will know plenty of more stories.

Hardly anything in this is fun - mostly, it is dreadful. I am constantly thinking of how companies could create a better customer experience when they would just be able to manage waiting lines better. In fact, this is one reason why Starbucks in the US became so successful. They transformed the "waiting in line for your coffee" into an experience. It is not that bad to wait in line at Starbucks anymore.

I mentioned already in one of my recent entries about conferences how much better a conference organiser could connect to the audience while they have to wait for a speaker to turn up. Or for the room to fill. Ever since that conference I was thinking about it. I looked at the lines that formed at FitnessFirst, when one of their training sessions start and people cue up to get "the permission to participate".

I had a great experience in Singapore. My firm organised a tour with Star Cruises for our offsite meeting. Yeah - I was on a cruise, my first - but than, while I had swim trunks with me, and slippers and shorts, I didn't wear any of those since we were busy trashing out ideas for the firm to go forward.

Disembarking from the ship could have been a nightmare. It was a nightmare entering the ship with about 1,000 or more people trying to get into it. Now, at the departure, there were four gates which were manned that did a last check on the passenger, if everything is in order before disembarking. The room where we were waiting is a theater.

Three long columns with rows and rows of seats to be filled up. People could have sat down anywhere but it didn't happen. People could have get restless, since the wait was long. The ship had to anchor first and safely, before disembarking could begin. All of this took more than 30 minutes.

What did Star Cruise do? They had an entertainer organising the sitting and the conversation with the audience during the wait. No, not somebody who swings ropes but somebody called Ricky who just talked to the audience, and entertained or involved them.

It was simple but efficient - he went through all the countries and asked the audience if there was anyone there from that country. He changed this sometimes, when he didn't remember any country - like for "O", he couldn't recall any name in the beginning. So he said "Osaka ---- country in Japan". Smiled to the 3 or 4 Japanese in the audience. He talked about Russia and that he loves their tennis star ... (I don't know the name). He said that he likes it because her skirt is so high during the tournaments and he can see lots of her legs. Cheap jokes, brought well.

He even managed to get us off the boat well. He just kept talking, while he organised the way the rows along the columns were let down to the exit.

It is difficult to describe all of this in detail. But it was clear that he knew what he was doing. He was spontaneous - some of the jokes will be repeated every time, but some where new, since the situation changed - this was clear.

But here was a company that was able to connect with the customer in a situation that could be bad or dreadful. This was a company that works on operational efficiency, in the usual business sense. This means their employees are able to board, serve and entertain 1,000 passengers in an extremely efficient way - you didn't see the operations in the background, but things were done and there was no reason to complain. And they were able to entertain customers, when required, in critical situations, in addition to connecting with them. This was a great experience and gives me hope that the experience economy can be a reality in Asia.


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