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The Jazz genius Miles Davis, behind Kind of Blue and Tutu, was one of the most influential musicians of the past century. To this day, his words keep inspiring and even offer us a simple but powerful rule in customer experience strategy:

“I always listen to what I can leave out.” 

Although referring to his compositions, this approach is extremely fitting for one key practice of customer experience strategy: journey mapping. Businesses, with a vision of delighting customers, tend to provide fancy and overly complex journeys, with many stages to showcase their expertise and wealth of services. It doesn’t have to be that way though, and the leading companies understand this.

When a journey stage becomes obsolete

Many industries were born way before our age of technology and abundance of data. When an innovation comes along, companies have shown to be able to adapt themselves (retailtravel or financial services have been a few we have observed recently). However, what happens when a process becomes outdated? The answer is “take it away” – or leave it out, to pay tribute to Miles Davis – and unfortunately, companies are not always as quick to acknowledge and act upon this.

There are some companies, however, that are bold enough to do so. JetBlue Airways realised that the once necessary check-in process for a flight no longer had a reason to exist. Put in place at an age and time where airlines depended on travel agents to sell seats and manage its inventory, the check-in principally served to ensure you were at the airport so that they knew where you were. With today’s technology and fast-moving operations, the process no longer had a reason to exist. Whilst many airlines decided to simplify the process by providing online check-in, JetBlue went the extra step and understood it could leave it out.

As a consequence, JetBlue passengers are automatically checked in for their flights, with seat allocation based on their travel history and preferences. With staff being freed up from this procedure, it provided them with more opportunities to service and delight their passengers before the flight. This certainly contributes greatly to a good performance in Time & Effort,Expectations and Empathy.

Companies like JetBlue demonstrate that a good strategy can be taking steps away, rather than adding in. Or as Miles Davis would aptly say:

“If you don’t know what to play, play nothing.” 

This translates into a key rule of customer experience strategy: if you don’t know what value the stage brings, leave it out.

Eating out – at its simplest

The restaurant industry is another example of how simplifying the experience can transform the journey of the customer. Many restaurants have adopted a connected approach to delivering their services, with orders going directly from the ordering terminal (nowadays, often a smartphone or tablet) to the kitchen, without the waiter even leaving your table. Sometimes, I get served my entrees whilst my party is still chatting with the waiter.

The pattern we mentioned with the airline industry is clearly found here again. Whilst the connected system has been widely implemented, very few went another route. Eatsa, a new Californian restaurant, decided to strip the experience down to its simplest.

Eatsa is unique in that there is no human interaction required for you to enjoy your meal – although the restaurant is staffed. Come in and order your food on a tablet kiosk. The team in the kitchen will prepare your food and it will come to you.  When the food is ready and served, the appropriate locker will display the customers’ name and light up. Take your order and enjoy it. Next time, the system will even remember your past visits and recommend dishes you might like to try.

Eatsa’s customer experience strategy clearly differs from the rest of the industry. The fact that they recently announced expansion plans hints to the idea that many customers are buying into the concept. One question being: how would service failure be addressed in these cases?

The key learning from our two examples can, once more, be summed up using Miles Davis’ own words:

“It’s not about standing still and becoming safe. If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change.”

More often than not, excellent customer experience strategy is about change: seeing how things are being done and how to change this for the better. Always look for what you can leave out. After all, sometimes, less is more.

For more customer experience insight, visit the KPMG Nunwood CEM blog.