Ena arthro pou milaei gia to Ikea kai to pos tha mporousan oi idees tou tropou leitourgias tou na efarmostoun stin Alitalia, ego to paratheto san protasi gia tin OA, opou AZ blepe OA, opou Italika delicatessen blepe Ellinika...
What Ikea Could Teach Alitalia
Thursday January 19, 8:13 am ET
By Gianfranco Zaccai
I recently visited Boston's new Ikea store with my two young children. A few days later, I flew to Italy on my usual carrier, Alitalia. The two experiences offered quite a lesson in the design of a customer experience. Ikea, the Swedish chain of retail stores for the home, is a worldwide success in customer loyalty and profits (see BW, 11/14/05, "Ikea"). Alitalia, the Italian national airline, seems perpetually on the verge of bankruptcy, with a shrinking base of often-dissatisfied customers.
Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Box?
Mark Twain once sarcastically described Wagner's music as "better than it sounds." But I'm not being a bit sarcastic when I say that Ikea's design is "better than it looks." In BusinessWeek's Nov. 14, 2005, cover story, Josephine Rydberg-Dumont, president of Ikea of Sweden, says, "Designing beautiful-but-expensive products is easy. Designing beautiful products that are inexpensive and functional is a huge challenge."
Yet it isn't just the products that Ikea has designed well, it's the total brand experience. I don't usually enjoy shopping at a big-box store -- with my kids or without them. What I gain in cost efficiency is wiped out by what I lose in the me-too products, inconvenience, and stress. In contrast, Ikea has kept the economic efficiency of the big box, but doesn't miss a chance to delight its customers with a thoughtfully and thoroughly designed shopping experience. The parking is convenient, kids are well taken care of in the play area, the product displays are interesting and entertaining, the restaurant is unusual and quite good -- the list goes on and on.
Flying Outside the Box
On the other hand, Alitalia and many other troubled airlines certainly provide a useful service, and sometimes at a bargain price, but only by scrimping on the customer experience. Travelers put up with Alitalia because they want to get to Italy, but shoppers flock to Ikea -- even if they don't intend to buy anything -- just because it's fun.
For Ikea, the profit model and the strategically designed, customer-delighting experience are one and the same. Rather than making consumers conform to an antiquated Industrial Age efficiency scheme, Ikea carefully designs the whole experience to satisfy the customer's natural desires to browse, to have fun, to shop with the family without worrying about the kids, and to be smart, hip, environmentally responsible, and sensible with money.
All the while, Ikea provides a taste of Sweden to a receptive global audience, and here the contrast with Alitalia is dramatic. Far more tourists travel to Italy than to Sweden -- 40 million last year alone. Yet Alitalia does little to leverage Italy's positive "brand," ignoring opportunities to offer a unique experience for its customers and to actually design itself out of its financial predicament.
Imagine if Alitalia thought about the customer's total travel experience the way Ikea thinks about the customer's total shopping experience? Here are some touch points that would be part of the total designed "Ikeatalia" experience:
-- The total travel experience.
After the hassles of making reservations, battling traffic, and trekking through the airport, many travelers are already fed up by the time they're in the airline's care. An "Ikeatalia" airline would try to make it easy and fun to make reservations and get to the airport, easy and fun to check your luggage and go through security, easy and fun to find your gate, easy and fun to board the plane -- with similar experiences upon arrival.
-- Children are welcome.
An Ikeatalia airline would treat children the way a good extended family does -- caring for them, entertaining them, and teaching them something, while reassuring parents that their kids are in good hands.
-- Grandparents are part of the family.
Older travelers have special challenges with air travel, but except for those extremely unglamorous golf carts with the annoying beeping, little is done to make them feel welcome. Ikeatalia would apply universal design principles throughout its waiting lounges and aircraft, improving the experience for all travelers.
An Ikeatalia airline would serve great food with Italian style and hospitality. This can even increase efficiency, since delicious finger foods -- like panini, spuntini, and bruschetta -- don't even require silverware. Furthermore, travelers could take home the recipes and serving sets.
Instead of wearing the usual stiff and stuffy airline uniforms, the Ikeatalia crew would be living showcases for Italian fashion -- each crew member adorned differently and beautifully in the latest scarves, ties, jewelry, glasses, travel cases, and even suits and dresses. In addition, Ikeatalia attire could integrate high-tech ideas such as smart fabrics and wearable computing.
-- Personal space.
Good ergonomic design can turn even a very small space into an elegant, customizable personal area. Ikeatalia travelers would not only have control of leg room, lumbar support, and seat inclination, but also acoustic control and great lighting...and how about a seat that gives you a massage? Boutique "design" hotels already have this figured out.
-- Work and la dolce vita.
In business class, personal monitors with on-demand Internet access and convenient iPod/USB ports would spare business travelers from carrying a lot of equipment onboard. Bluetooth-enabled devices would mean instant connectivity, including onboard intranets for traveling work teams. Noise-canceling headphones and glasses of well-chilled prosecco would further enhance the experience.
-- A day spa.
One reason people travel to Italy is for the health spas. The Ikeatalia airline would have a flying health-spa section with branded, all-natural, healthful foods, fresh fruit, mineral waters, and skin treatments in a quiet space.
-- An Italian holiday.
What if every flight were a holiday with special surprises and celebrations?
Conventional wisdom says that the above innovations are too expensive for a failing airline. But Alitalia is in the midst of receiving an infusion of new capital. If those funds are not swallowed up by past debt and further Band-Aids, then design, branding, corporate vision, and strategic alliances can create a virtuous cycle of customer-delighting improvement.
Alitalia has a potential annual market of 40 million international customers, plus countless domestic travelers. What if the airline stopped seeing itself as a mere carrier of human cargo and began to regard itself as a caring purveyor of "the Italian experience" to a self-selected and very lucrative market?
What if Alitalia's 40 million customers were shared with well-selected partners in the fashion, hospitality, technology, communication, entertainment, food, and wine industries? What if treating these customers with respect stimulated new profit-making technological and design innovation?
Certainly airlines such as JetBlue and Ryanair have discovered that one can apply operational creativity -- employee training and incentives, infrastructure, equipment selection, and routing -- to make money in the airline business. What if the same level of business design creativity were combined with the design of a great customer experience?
If we can truly enjoy shopping in a highly profitable big-box store, then surely we could also enjoy flying, going to the bank, visiting someone in the hospital, buying a new car, even renewing a driver's license.
It's time to start thinking about how.
Einai kairos na skeftoume kai emeis to pos mia Olympiaki tha mporouse na prosferi ston tourismo alla kai stin Ellada perissotero.
Distyxos pou na skefti kati tetoio Elliniko mialo!