One-Stop Shopping in All Businesses?

I was recently diagnosed as a diabetic, (probably not a surprise for those of you who have already met me.) After all of the initial tests, explanations, and prescriptions, my doctor made and appointment at The Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology, (CDE,) and suggested that I join their “programme.”

So, with some trepidation, I arrived at the CDE’s attractive offices in a nice suburb, parked my car and entered, not really knowing what to expect. I can tell you that it was an overwhelmingly positive experience, and created for me a sense of hope and optimism that I was going to beat this disease. The people I encountered were friendly, helpful, responsive and very patient with me, and all the traditional service behaviours were well covered. But what struck me most is that everything relating to the treatment and control of diabetes is conveniently located in one place.

Apart from the professional endocrinologists, there are also other related specialists, (such as dieticians and podiatrists,) who one can consult with. There are facilities and laboratories for all the tests and analyses that are necessary. Patients spend time with diabetes educators who take time to explain things properly, and share valuable information and tips. There is a pharmacy where you can buy everything that you may need, and a shop where there are foodstuffs, cookery books, DVD’s and other products that are related to diabetes. And there’s more: You can talk to the professionals about your own personalised programme with a biokineticist who will develop an exercise discipline for you – at the on-premise gym if you choose. Even the administrative staff take time to help you understand exactly what this means in terms of your medical insurance.

But perhaps the best thing about this “total package” is the benefit that comes from being on the programme. Here’s how it works: the medical insurance company pays the CDE a fixed fee every month to carry all the risks associated with the patient. (This means that they pay a limited and predictable amount rather than ongoing costs – useful for them.) The CDE benefits from this monthly annuity income, but also has the incentive to keep the patient healthy. The patient is motivated to also take responsibility because the CDE gives you a checklist of activities that you, as a patient, must attend to. These include various regular tests, ongoing visits to the professionals, and a monitoring programme. With everything conveniently located in one place, this is actually very easy.

As I went through this process, it suddenly struck me that lots of other industries have a similar approach to customer needs, but there is just so much more room for improvement. My most favourite company in the world is Virgin Atlantic Airways, and they always seem to come up with innovative ways of packaging a number of services to give the passenger a better experience. There’s the service of taking you to and from the airport, of arranging the so-called “Virgin Limo-Bike” if you are in a hurry to get to a meeting in the heart of London, of going to the lounge at the other end of your journey for a shower, a haircut, to have a decent breakfast, or your clothes pressed. But you can also rent a mobile phone, hire a car, book a hotel or a seat on a train, and even buy music on the flight – all from the associated companies. These have nothing to do with the act of flying from A to B, but Richard Branson and his team want to help you with all aspects of your trip.

My local SPAR is another good example. They go contrary to good retail practice, which suggests that you spread all related products throughout the store so that customers have to walk up and down the aisles. The theory is that they will then be tempted to make some impulsive purchases. But not at my branch.

There the manager, Max, has decided to bunch together, in one place, everything you need for a braai, (barbeque) – the meat, salads, marinades, firelighters, briquettes, chips, fruit salad, ice-cream, and plenty more – so that it’s convenient and time saving for the customers. You can be in and out in a jiffy.

Club Med and other hotels and resorts give you holidays where everything is included, all accommodation, meals, drinks, plenty of fun activities, even baby-sitting, and tips for staff. And then they organise a reunion party a few months after you get back. Woolies not only sell you groceries, but also ready made meals. MacDonald’s and other venues will arrange your child’s birthday party.

Drs. Clive and Marie Landman run a medical practice in Centurion where, apart from ample parking, attractive facilities and a place for kids to play, there are also all sorts of diagnostic facilities like x-ray, on the premises. Patients don’t need to go from facility to facility to get stuff done.

So how about if my local car dealer didn’t just do the traditional stuff? What if they took responsibility for every aspect of owning and driving a car? They could renew my license every year, for example, and give me a place to store it when I go on holiday, (like a sort of “car kennel”.) They could respond to my frustration in places where parking is limited, like shopping centres or sports events, and buy the best parking spaces, reserved only for drivers of their car brand. (Both Lexus and Smart do this.)

And my bank could become my “financial partner” in my life, not only offering me a wider range of products, (including insurance, medical aid, decent investments, and so on,) but also using their information systems to analyse how I spend my money, to complete my tax returns, to advise me how to run my business better, and hey, maybe even doing all of my invoicing and credit control.

My local conference centre could take responsibility for all aspects of organising my public workshops – from preparing, printing and mailing brochures, taking the bookings on the telephone, copying and binding my handouts, as well as the usual catering, equipment and venue arrangements. Oh yes, and they can also do the course evaluations and certificates too.

The old management adage, “Stick to your knitting,” doesn’t always apply anymore. Today, you need to define your “knitting” as doing whatever it takes to create customer loyalty by making it easy and convenient for them to do business with your company.

A good start will be to create a customer journey map. Take a blank sheet of paper, and begin by writing all the touch points that your customers experience in order along the bottom of a graph. Then, on the vertical scale, score the amount of effort needed on a scale from 1 to 10. Look at this for four different aspects: the physical effort needed, the intellectual or cognitive effort needed, the emotional effort needed, and the time effort needed to deal with your company. You may get quite a surprise by how difficult it is.

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