The Tables Turn for Me; I'm a User

(Repost from October 25, 2018)

I play the role of user for another company.

WARNING:  this is more of a personal blog post...

Fairly recently I was asked to be part of a kind of long-term focus group for a car rental company.  Heck, I rent a lot of cars.  Heck, I have an opinion about most things.  Heck, I can do this!

Well, it's been pretty interesting over the past months.I see a company that is trying to reinvent its entire infrastructure to make it entirely user-centric. This company has data coming out of its ears, and yet, doesn't seem to be able to put it together to offer customers a better experience. The interfaces I use are pretty kludgy.  I can't do the smallest thing from the app or website, and I'm always on the phone with a person that takes forever to do what I need. (I'm certainly sympathetic to IBM customers that think this exact thing about us.)

From what I can tell, they are not really using all their data to predict what is going to happen when that nor'easter hits the three big NYC airports and they need to get cars there fast to rent.  They also cannot tell me before I arrive at the rental counter and wait for a car whether there is actually one there for me.  (Seinfeld would say, "you know how to TAKE a reservation, but just don't know how to HOLD the reservation".)  And, if I ever have to drive a certain kind of Italian car with one wiper again that cannot go above 50mph, I will go next door to the other car rental company - please just tell me that is the only car you've got for me before I arrive.

I went to a dinner with this company's senior executives.  Everyone was there: CEO, CIO, CFO, CMO, C-anything-O.  I sat with the General Counsel, the Group President for Internationals, and the Chief fleet guy (I forget his real title, but he was in charge of acquiring that certain Italian car I drove).  What I loved: these C-suite people were actually listening to me, and writing stuff down.  I told them how their data should be used to be more predictive and helpful to the customer.  How the customer really wants to do a lot of things from the app or web, but just can't. I told them how I wanted them to succeed, but that I need to see benefits for my loyalty choice.

I told them they do know preferences and distastes, and should try to get aligned to them with each transaction within reason. Much of what said, I think they were already moving on and just didn't get down to me yet, but many items I think they hadn't realized.  I actually had some great improvements to compliment them on too, so I did want to encourage how it is better than before.

After the dinner, I thought about this company and IBM.  We are much bigger and we have some different problems and many similar ones. 

  • We've got lots of data and we could be more predictive with it. 
  • We generate data on our systems for customers, and then make it hard for them to use to anticipate situations (but we have bright spots on that!). 
  • We are trying to use modern tools which can leverage our capabilities. It's a hard road to get there in many cases. (If getting off RETAIN was easy, it would have been done long ago.)
  • If we don't give the customers what they want, they will be vocal about it.  Sometimes even looking for an alternative if it's that bad.  
  • Our customers that are loyal to us, we need to reward with the best products and services in the world to help them beat their competition, and make this third rock from the sun a better place.

I'm saying what I've known all along, but seeing another company have to go through it certainly has made me feel like this struggle is less lonely.