Alaska Airlines Experience

Great article at Fast Company by way of 37 signals about Alaska Airlines' proactive attempts to rethink the check in experience. This is really a great case study that illustrates a point I try to make to my own clients, students and colleagues:

You don't always need fancy research, study and expensive agencies to help you improve experience. Often, you can find the really innovative solutions yourself. Here's how:

  • Identify the challenge/opportunity
  • Select a mix of your smartest, most enthusiastic, hardest working people
  • Give them a reasonable amount of uninterrupted time within which to problem-solve
  • Encourage them to talk to other people who have solved similar problems - even outside of your own market
  • Give them the ability to brainstorm, model and experiment
  • Have them create a prioritized list of improvements, based on business and customer value
  • Test each improvement and adjust as necessary
  • Roll out solid solutions across the board

    In this case, Alaska Airlines assembled a team of its own people. They read books, interviewed and visited theme parks (like Disney), hospitals and retailers to find innovative solutions to expediting check-in. They created models for the redsign using cardboard boxes (cool) ... and then they built test podiums and refined the designs in real airports.

    The article will tell you more. In summary, the outcome has been improved customer service, streamlined check ins for customers and a significant cost savings.

    A+ to Alaska for its grassroots approach to resolving customer experience challenges from both the customer AND the business side. This seems a heckuva lot smarter than cutting out meals, beverages and peanuts...
  • Amazon Down - Twitter Up!??

    I had a surreal moment today when I discovered that Amazon.com - the most reliable eCommerce site around is down. Meanwhile, while Twitter - the most unrealiable microblogging website around - was up!

    For awhile at least. Twitter went down shortly thereafter. Probably due to so many people tweeting about Amazon.

    What's it gonna cost the seller of all things? Well, according to my Ad Age alert...the downtime is worht $1.8 Million dollars per hour.

    Ouch. That's gotta hurt!

    A Noisy Virtual Cubicle

    I left corporate America for the blissful freedom of self-employment several years ago. Prior to this point, I had spent years working with startup companies, living in cubicles and hijacked conference room spaces... I was at the point in my career where an office with a door was almost a guarantee.

    Ahh...the office with a door....

    But then, I went into consulting. As a traveling "Big 5" consulant, I traded my office dream for the hope of first class upgrades (more laptop space to work within), shared offices and desk spaces, borrowed client cubicles and - of course - hijacked conference room space.

    It was a noisy and distracting existence.

    Today, I've got my spacious office, with a door. I can have a happy dog at my feet (if I want) - even a baby and some toys (if I want). Yay!

    Well, I was celebrating, until I expanded my involvement in social networks, joining Facebook, Twitter and Plurk among others. Now, I seem to be back in a noisy cubicle again. I'm being plurked and tweeted, IM'd, DM'd and friended by people I don't know, filtering out conversations I don't have time for, people are writing on my wall and sending me links to things I must read.

    The funny thing is, I don't even have that many friends or followers. I used to want more. But after my recent mprofs article, in which I invited people to follow me on Plurk and Twitter -- perhaps I should reconsider. There's joy in being a neatly kept secret...in managing one's conversation streams.

    For now, I find myself again working in a noisy and distracting existence. Part fun - part frustration - part vortex. It's easy to feel like there's no door - but truth be told, there is. It's called "EXIT"... but my desire to do that with each application is proportionate to my fear that I'll be missing out of the discussion, in some way (good and bad). Maybe I'll get over that soon and disconnect a bit.

    Gag me with an app!

    It seems each day I’m presented with yet another "killer app" I need to go evaluate and monitor.

    These seem to have a few things in common. First, most seem to have these cutesy 3-7 letter names like "Blyk" and "Fark". Second, none of the names really reflect what the apps do. Next, most of the home pages for these services use fluffy language to describe the value they offer - or how they may be distinct from other similar services within their niche. Finally, many of them are similar in functionality and purpose.

    I challenged myself to take a bit of a top-of-mind list of social applications - not including games - today. It started with a list I had on a post-it note on my desk. Some are older and you'll recognize them. Some may be new to you, as they were to me. Note that this was a casual effort - and I quickly got to about 70, in number. Sorted alphabetically...
    • Backflip
    • Bebo
    • Blinklist
    • Bloglog
    • Blogmarks
    • Blyk
    • BrightKite
    • De.licio.us
    • Digg
    • Diigo
    • Disqus
    • Dopplr
    • Facebook
    • Fark
    • Faves
    • Feed Me Links
    • Flickr
    • Friendster
    • Friendfeed
    • Furl
    • Goodreads
    • Ilike
    • Jaiku
    • Jott
    • Hi5
    • Last.fm
    • Librarything
    • Linked in
    • Live
    • ma.gnolia
    • Mixx
    • MrWong
    • Multiply
    • Myspace
    • Newsvine
    • Netvibes
    • NetVous
    • Orkut
    • Pandora
    • Picasa
    • PhotoCrank
    • Plaxo
    • Pownce
    • Propeller
    • Reddit
    • Seesmic
    • Segnalo
    • Simpy
    • Slashdot
    • Slide
    • Slideshare
    • Smugmug
    • Spurl
    • Stumbleupon
    • Tailrank
    • Tumblr
    • Twirl
    • Twitter
    • Twitterbuzz
    • Upcoming
    • Utterz
    • Veotag
    • Vimeo
    • Wink
    • Qik
    • Yelp
    • Zoomr

    I actually put these in a spreadsheet and categorized them by type (Community, Utility, Media Sharing, Bookmarking...etc.) after looking up each one. I also added a brief description. This was a lot of work. (Thankfully, I had a client delay so I had time). The thing is, I kept finding more as I went along. If you're reading this you may even know of one that's not on this list... and I wonder how many more are added each day...

    Sunday's discovery (yes Mack - it was on Twitter) was "PLURK". I hadn't heard of Plurk before. Maybe I spend too much of my spare time changing diapers or something. Evidently, it's Toronto's answer to Friendfeed or Twitter. I'm not enthusiastic about the name... it reminds me of "PERVERT" plus "LURK" - not positive really. I guess at the least it is memorable.

    All this to say: Call me crazy but I'm seriously getting to the point of total app saturation; so much so that I've developed a syndrome I call "APP reflex." It involves a facial tic, shoulder spasm and a gagging sinus noise. This came on gradually but was fully in force after one day of casual research. It is doing wonders for my marriage (attractive!!!).

    I can only imagine what the high tech venture capitalists think about this topic as they're presented with the flavor of the day startup. They probably have nightmares. But I digress again...

    Like the rest of you, I do have a day job. Fortunately, this is relevant to my day job, so I can justify writing this post. It's enough to say that it IS very hard to keep up on the exponential growth of the social applications, sites and utilities out there. It takes time to evaluate and use each one -- and some tinkering to figure out which tools are things that will become valuable for the future, and which things are fly-by-night, wannabe technologies.

    This exponential growth is another reason why Forrester's Peter Kim recently produced research that indicates a very strong lack of confidence in agency ability to keep up on new technologies and know how to apply them intuitively to boost bottom line results and customer loyalty. ;-)

    If by chance I happen to find something valuable, I've got to take the time to use it - and have it top-of-mind, and keep up on it - figure out how it's going to be valuable to my clients. That's not always easy. Truth be told -- the activity can be a colossal waste of time if one is not selective. While now I could be considered a "twitterpated" evangelist, the whole investment thing was part of the reason I was a latecomer to Twitter.

    But there is hope as the apps proliferate. Last week, I was quite happy to find AddThis... an application that allows you to add one button to your site that allows users to Digg, Multiply, Bookmark, Reddit, Twitter away on any post... In fact, I believe it works with at least 20 services. Adding this to my site was grand time saver and I was happy not to have to add those links individually. ;-)

    Who knows how many other helpful utilities like this will come along for folks like me -- like us -- who are time starved and look for a way to cut through the noise and figure things out!

    So I'm encouraged... and as the apps multiply like rabbits in heat...I will press on - bold and brave. I heard rumors about drug trial for people dealing with APP REFLEX and I'm thinking of signing up. Feel free to join me.

    But seriously, if you know of more social apps, send them to me with a brief link or description. I'll do my best to publish this list with categories and descriptions in the near future for the benefit of all.

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    LEIGH DURST

    LEIGH DURST
    I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.

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