leadership dot #2242: light reading

The library has always been known for loaning books – but this library made it even easier to do so. The Dubuque County Library features a selection of “summer light reads” that require no check out; rather it is borrowing on the honor system. This rack is located next to the door and makes it easy for patrons to grab a “beach book” on the way out. It relieves the pressure of returning the book by a timeline or feeling obligated to keep it pristine for the permanent collection.

Summer Light Reads is a low-key investment by the library – all are fiction paperbacks that can be picked up at any Goodwill or garage sale – but they stimulate reading and provide another service for readers. Many people want an easy read for the summer, and the library has done a good job of providing it.

Think about how you can make a service you offer even easier for your clientele. Is there a way to reposition something with a different proximity? Can you provide a “light” version of your traditional service at a reduced fee or no cost? What about functioning as a clearinghouse to allow your customers to exchange goods in your facility?

Summer is a good time to make something light and easy for your base.


leadership dot #2241: bait and switch

I’m sorry. To all the friends, family and strangers I met in line at the movie theater to whom I recommended MoviePass, I offer my apology. It was great in the beginning, but never have I seen a company implode as thoroughly as this one has.

When I signed up, it was under the premise that I could watch “one movie/day.” There were no other restrictions. It was such great fun all winter – I saw movies I would have never seen otherwise; I went to great movies multiple times; I could go at whatever time I liked, and it was as easy as using a credit card. Since then, every time I receive a communication from MoviePass it is to make the service more restrictive – without grandfathering in those of us who purchased an annual pass. Now there are only dinnertime options or 10pm (no prime evening showings), you can’t see a movie more than once, new releases are embargoed for two weeks and you have to photograph and upload your ticket stub – all providing that the app is working and hasn’t been shut down due to default or design on MoviePass’ end. I could never recommend them today.

MoviePass will be a business school case study someday – in my class if no other – that highlights the importance of a realistic financial plan and the importance of taking care of your early customers. If they had changed their terms but allowed us to have the original conditions of our contract, I could understand the need to do so. If they had changed the rules once and not grandfathered us in, I could maybe even stomach that. But repeatedly diminishing what we originally signed up for – under the guise of “terms and conditions may change” – is just poor, poor business practice and akin to bait and switch.

I gave MoviePass a free pass after their first two reductions in service, but their latest has sent me over the edge. To all my friends and family, I now say: “Take a pass on MoviePass”. What you sign up for today is likely not what you will receive tomorrow.

leadership dot #2235: surprise and delight

My sister purchased several packages of meat at the co-op and joked with the clerk that she was almost leaving her whole paycheck at the butcher counter. He subsequently handed her an additional package of four brats – with a special sticker indicating that she would receive them for free.

“It’s our Surprise and Delight Program,” the butcher said.

Surprise and delight it did! The brats were priced at $11.64 and it was a treat to receive them without cost.

Handing over a valuable package of meat may not fit within your organization’s service or budget range, but what can you do that emulates that concept? Whether through a formal program, by empowering your staff to initiate it when warranted or just through an occasional burst of serendipity, surprise and delight is a worthy aim for every provider.

leadership dot #2230: face to face

I have written before about the growing number of businesses that are offering pick-up services and special drive-up spots for customers to acquire their online orders at the store. In New York City, Target is taking this a step further and offering home delivery.

Signs proclaiming “Buy a cartful and we’ll deliver it” are plastered all over the subway stations – appropriate marketing for the consumers who don’t want to schlep bundles of paper towels or heavy laundry detergent on the A-Train.

I suspect that Amazon’s door-to-door delivery is taking a bite out of Target’s market. Especially in inclement weather, who wants to drag “a cartful” even to your car, let alone via subway or bus.

But at what cost is all this convenience?

Goods and services are delivered to your door. More people are working remotely. Many have opted for streaming services instead of movies. You can even visit the doctor via the web.

Organizations must provide new levels of value just to get people to leave their homes. In an era where civility is being tested, perhaps it is because we have fewer and fewer face-to-face encounters. On any given day we could see the UPS or Target delivery person more than our neighbors or even coworkers.

At least while the sun is shining, leave your house to soak it in. Chat with people along your path. Buy your shampoo in a brick and mortar store. Let your face see other faces that aren’t in delivery uniforms or on a screen.

leadership dot #2228: economy

Everything about my trip to New York was fantastic – except my experience in getting there and back. I was flying on a “free” ticket from my credit card rewards which meant that I was booked in American’s new “economy class.” If they could have strapped me to the wings instead of giving me a seat, it felt like they would have.

Economy class means they will let your body on the plane as part of the ticket price; anything else costs extra. If you want to get a seat assignment, it costs money. If you want a boarding pass before the gate, get out your credit card. No carry-on baggage; you pay to check your luggage. You’re in the last group on the plane.

Why do organizations focus so much on price and make the experience so miserable that it negates any good feelings about a discount rate? There is a base price to provide a quality service. While you may be tempted to go below that, in the end, you are cutting into your reputation more than you are boosting your profits. Charge what it takes to provide a pleasurable experience.

leadership dot #2204: aligned

I have a new neighbor – who is installing a new pool – which requires the installation of a new section of fence to replace my adjoining chain link with a regulation height barrier. The men who were here yesterday to do the job not only installed the new fence section but spent a considerable amount of time realigning the existing fencing so that it all was even.

Their company did not install the original fence, but they took the time to improve it. No one remembers who did the initial work, but the current contractor’s reputation is what would be tarnished if the new work looked shoddy for whatever reason. One section installed correctly becomes invisible if the surrounding sections are out of kilter — so they did the entire fence as it should be done.

Do you have similar pride in your work or do you focus only on the piece that is “yours”? Take a lesson from the fence installers and embrace a larger view of your duties. Even if you technically only have responsibility for a section, your integrity is judged on the whole.

leadership dot #2203: baggage

Air travel, something that used to be a luxury for the affluent, has become a chaotic experience for the multitudes. I was just in O’Hare and LaGuardia where oversold flights, insufficient airport seating and understaffed ticket counters contributed to a harried boarding process for all.

But what really made it mayhem was the illogical policy airlines have regarding checked baggage. It makes no sense to me that airlines charge people to check their bags – thus encouraging carry-ons – but have inadequate space to accommodate them. On several legs of my trip, the final boarding group was mandated to check their roller-boards at the gate, thus doing for free what would have cost $25 if the passenger had done it in a timely fashion, but now doing it at the worst possible time and place from an efficiency perspective. It seems crazy that airlines push a practice that delays the process and requires much more manual work by the airline without generating revenue. The last-minute free checking further discourages people from checking their bags for their next trip when they are guaranteed to pay to do so; instead, many people will take their chances that they’ll get a free pass at the gate.

Wouldn’t airlines rather have people check their bags? It would expedite the boarding and deplaning processes and avoid all the last-minute gate checks. It seems to me that they are incentivizing the wrong thing: checked bags should be free and carry-ons that don’t fit under the seat should incur a charge.

The next time you implement a policy, think through what would happen if it worked. What if your policy to encourage one set of behavior was wildly successful: what implications would that have? What are the downsides to a shift in practice and how can you mitigate them? All policies have inherent baggage inherent in their implementation. Your job is to check the negatives and carry on with the positives instead of doing the reverse by default.