Start Up Blog

Give us a taste

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 8, 2011

I was recently flying with Emirates and got talking to the cabin crew. When I later asked for a cappuccino they gave me a nice little extra effort. See below:

For the uninitiated, that is the Emirates tail logo as the chocolate on my coffee. I was impressed so much I didn’t want to put sugar in and mess it all up. She did mention that it was normally reserved for 1st Class passengers, but they thought I might appreciate it in business class. They gave me a taste of for next level.

My question to entrepreneurs is this: How are you giving your customers a taste of the top tier?

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Screen Culture

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 29, 2011

TV was the first entertainment screen in our lives and belonged in the living room. And it stayed there for the best part of 30 years before it multiplied. Slowly, it made it’s way into the other rooms of the house. It was linear and unidirectional, but it was also the start of a new culture. A culture that would shape more than entertainment.

In less than 20 years since the birth of the graphical web, screens in all shapes and sizes have started to pop up all around us. They’ve made things simpler, easy to understand, and just made life better. So much so, that screens now permeate virtually every aspect of our lives.

I call it screen culture.

And it’s much more than TV, web browsers and smart phones. It’s every screen we see. All web enabled, all around us and consumers expect the screens to serve them without a hitch.

They’re in our pockets, they’re on our desk, the car dashboard is now a screen, on the back of airline seats, the airline check in counters, supermarket checkouts, shopping centre directories, in all retail spaces, in the back seat of taxi’s, bus shelters, community spaces. They exist where ever communication and commerce does. Every machine now has a screen. Every time we interact with technology, the interface is increasingly screen enabled. And we often attend to multiple screens concurrently.

The more we learn about the screen, the more it learns about us. The best screens can be manipulated, touched, caressed, controlled and even spoken to. It’s our job to humanize the screens so that they are culturally sensitive. They need to intuitively know what we want… and lead us to that solution. The interface has to be the instruction manual. Screen culture demands that we teach people “how”, while they interface. That the learning, and the solving, happen simultaneously. The screens need to serve us. We must be able to navigate the tight spaces of the small screen, if we can do this, then conversion to the big is easy.

This can only happen when we design as humans, not technologists.

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Kulula Air – Eyeball worthy

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 10, 2010

I was recently email some pics of Kulula Airlines livery. I’d describe it as eyeball worthy. Because it’s worth looking at, it’s worth talking about. There is no shortage of in cabin jokes from cabin crew while talking to passengers, but few have the courage to paint their personality on the fuselage like Kalula have. In an era of media proliferation, the trick any startup needs to master is the ability to be talked about. Nice work Kulula.

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Southwest Airlines – customer service

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 6, 2009

Here’s a nice piece of personal input from a staff member at Southwest Airlines. Although they do have a reputation of doing things a little different, the thing that really matters is the fact that they let staff ‘add value’ and be real people.

I like it…. I’d be interested to know if you do, or if you’d find it annoying?

For startups, simple service innovations and staff input cost almost nothing. If you’re lucky, 25,000 people will see it on the internet!

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Dubai Series: Entrepreneurial thought experiment

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 4, 2009

Here’s a little thought experiment I did on paper while flying from Dubai to New York. I think it’s important to visualise our thoughts. You never know what our toughts might turn into. This one is a bit obtuse, but might be worht a close look.

dubai-new-york-doodle

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Dubai Series: You snooze, you ‘win’

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 3, 2009

These are starting to pop up in the better airports around the world. But every airport has the space for them in the international departure lounges. I’ve seen them in Singapore and now in Dubai International Airport as seen below:

airport-sleepers

They are just a cool idea which makes sense for ‘the people’. A classic ‘1 percenter’. When we are traveling for days at a time a little welcome relief on the ground or a stopover might just make us go through that airport on our next global trip, instead of that other one.

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Qantas gets it wrong with Effiency

These 3 photos where taken at Melbourne airport on a Friday night.

This is of a quick check (self check in terminal)of which there are 22.

This is of the the bag check in staff of which there were 3 working. (They have spaces for 22 employees)

And the this photo is of the ensuing crowd and chaos.

(the crowd goes around the corner it’s at least 100 deep)

I asked the staff member if she’d like some help tonight – she seemed flustered with how busy she was. She said “of course, but it’s ‘cheaper’ this way”. Then I asked if she thought “quick check” was quicker. She said “definitely not”.

So here’s the thing – Qantas make money out of the quick check. The save on overheads. On the balance sheet it makes sense. But what is the ‘real cost’ of doing it?

What it does is, is actually diminish what they actually provide at a differentiated level. It reduces their product from “service” to “travel”. They further commodify themselves against their low cost airline competitors. They make us ask why we are actually flying qantas and paying a premium…

- Is it the food service? – Not likely, given the food is most often a gourmet cookie & juice.

- Is it the service in the air? – Not likely, given their staff are less polite than budget airlines.

- Is it the airplanes? – Not likely, given all domestic players use the exact same aircraft.

- Is the the baggage allowance? – Not likely, given the allownaces are the same 20kg’s to tohers.

- Is it the terminal ambience? – Not likey, given it’s shared with jetstar.

- Is it their safety record? – Not likey given recent scares & that no major aircraft has ever crashed in Australia.

- Is it the inflight entertainment? – Maybe, but it’s a stetch these days given we all have mobile entertainment devices in our pocket.

- Is it the Frequent Flyer points?  Maybe, but it’s marginal at best.

- Is it the Qantas Club? yes – if you are preapred to pay the $775 per annum.

And it can’t be their ground service, given the example above on a Friday night.

Qantas need to ask themselves some hard questions about what they actually offer – as a long time loyal customer, it’s waining quickly. Their point of difference is in a massive state of decline.

Here’s what Qantas ought do if they want to avoid further decline:

  1. Offer Hot meals & drinks every flight. Not just at dinner time. If we are travelling we didn’t have time for dinner or lunch, regardless of when our flight was. We are just as hungry on 7pm flights as we are on 6pm flights. It’s not the food which costs the airline, it’s serving it up. So, if you are going to serve it. Make it worth the effort.
  2. Make the ground experience comfortable and convenient. A few more staff members on the cehckout is a nice start.
  3. Provide free wifi to anyone with a boarding pass.
  4. Have a ‘no tricks’ Frequent Flyer program where any seat on any flight is available, and not for ‘extra points’ – we’ve already paid a premium for our tickets – remember Mr Qantas?
  5. Have separate terminals for your Budget Airline (Jetstar) and your Premium Airline (Qantas).
  6. Sing out loud in your advertising about how different the Qantas experience is. Make us feel special.
  7. Charge the price needed to make it profitable. You’ll be surpirsed how many of us will be preapred to pay for it.

It’s about time Qantas started to focus on it’s customers and forgot about it’s competitors. Eventually we all morph into what we focus.

I’m sure Qantas will tell us this isn’t possible – but tell that to the person who pays twice the price for a Mac book pro versus a Toshiba with the same configurations.

Startups out there: “Beat your competitors – don’t be them!”

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