Are your customers satisfied?

.. and are you willing to settle for that?

The Lean MindsetFor their latest book, The Lean Mindset (great book, btw – buy it on Amazon here), Mary and Tom Poppendieck took a long hard look at where we are now and where the Agile/Lean movements have taken us. What they argue is that we have been concentrating on building the thing right.

We’ve been delivering flows of value on time, with lots of features requested by the involved customer. We’ve been communicating and demonstrating and getting frequent feedback. We’ve been adapting to change. And we’ve been missing the point.

Are you experiencing the same as Theresa Smith from Sphere of Influence, quoted in the book:

“The software was successfully delivered, chock full of high priority features that had been deemed important by the client – all within a nearly impossible schedule. The final software was good and our client expressed their satisfaction with our work. [There was] just one problem: the client was only satisfied.”

All this focus on building the thing right is better than it was, but it misses a huge opportunity – to start delighting our customers.

I’ll give an example that is very close to home for me. In Edinburgh our buses are exact change only, with a fixed fee of £1.50 for a single, or £3.50 for a day ticket. You can also buy books of single tickets to save having to have loose change to hand.

Recently Transport for Edinburgh (TfE) released a mobile app to allow you to buy tickets on your smartphone. I use the bus intermittently, so this sounded great. I downloaded it, and had a look.

It allows you to buy tickets in advance and add them to a virtual wallet. You then activate a ticket just before you get onto a bus and show it to the driver.

It has several restrictions:

  • You have to spend a minimum of £10 (fairly standard I suppose, probably to make it commercially viable with transaction charges)
  • You have to pre-select what tickets you are going to buy – singles and/or day tickets (so I have to decide at point of purchase what type of ticket I want, rather than when I’m actually going to use it)
  • These tickets are only valid for 90 days (now extended to 180 days, I think).

What’s that last one about? They get my money and I get…nothing if I don’t use it in time? That, particularly combined with the inflexibility, is why I don’t use it.

This is an opportunity missed. It sounds to me like the developers were given a specification of “allow people to buy tickets on their phones like they do now. It’s got to be secure so they can’t carry on using a single ticket for ages. And there’s a minimum spend of £10”.

And they have indeed delivered that. So why am I complaining? What more should I expect?

Well, let me sketch out an alternative implementation which also meets those requirements:

  • You have a virtual wallet which you charge up by £10 or more.
  • When you want to get on the bus, you “buy” a ticket using the money in your virtual wallet. You activate it as before and use it.
  • When you buy your first and second tickets of the day, you get a single and get charged £1.50.
  • When you buy your third ticket, it recognises that the cheapest way for you now is for a day ticket. It charges you an extra 50p, taking your total up to £3.50, and you now have a day ticket that you can use for the rest of the day.
  • If you happen to buy a day ticket several days running so you would have been better off with a week pass, it upgrades you to a week pass for whatever the difference is and you can use that for the rest of the week.
  • Note: you don’t have to worry about ticket types. You just buy a ticket, and the software works out what type it should be for you. Simpler interface.

If it was implemented that way, I would definitely use it. It would make travelling by bus simpler and more and cost-effective.

But that’s not what the customer asked for.


It fulfils the requirements as well.  It also would delight this customer instead of putting him off. And it’s not as if it’s particularly innovative – this is exactly how Oyster cards have worked in London for several years.

But it looks like the developers concentrated on reproducing the current process rather than looking at the potential opened up by moving to new technology. And so it’s an opportunity missed, and this is one customer who doesn’t use their product as a result. If they have any sort of per-ticket/per-revenue royalty, that’s hit them in the wallet.

Don’t be content with satisfying your customers. Delight them!

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