“We no longer accept cash” versus a “tinfoil” strategy or how best to survive in a down market.

ResizedImage200251-service3 In the last month I’ve been on three different airlines that no longer accept cash on board for purchases.  Now, I can clearly understand why certain companies would not want to accept personal checks or for that matter credit or debit cards for very low ticket items but I have never had my cash rejected by a large company and never thought it would become a standard practice across an entire industry.   Particularly large companies like Delta, American Airlines and Jetblue that I happen to spend a lot of money with and fly quite often 150,000 to 200,000 miles a year often.  They like customers like me.

Did they do this because it’s more convenient for me, the customer? Clearly not as they’ve never asked me if I prefer to not have the option of using cash and have taken away that choice.   They’ve done this because it’s more convenient for them and  based on the work of some  high priced consultancy a way to “streamline their operational efficiencies to maximize profitability”.   I guess they don’t believe that customers like options and choices and enjoy paying extra for blankets, extra legroom, exit rows and baggage fees.  Ugh.

But what about the customer?  Now it’s not that big of a deal to have to use a credit or a debit card onboard but they’ve shifted the inconvenience of  making change and handling and managing cash from the service provider to the customer, from their problem to my problem.  Not a brilliant strategy by any stretch of the imagination.  I’ve got more than enough issues that are my responsibility and I don’t recall volunteering to make the flight attendants job easier.  I assumed they spend their time thinking about how to make my experience a better one but apparently that’s not the case.

Now let’s contrast the airlines with my local dry cleaner.  But first a little personal disclosure that I may regret making but here goes.  I occasionally like to wear Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirts.  I like them, they’re comfortable and fun to wear and as an added bonus it embarrasses my kids a bit.  What else could any body want from a shirt?    Feel free to insert your own anti- Hawaiian shirt comment here, I can take it.   Now one of the things about these shirts is that the buttons are made of some sort of wood.  The reason I know this is because twice at my previous dry cleaner they came back broken.  When I questioned him about this he proceeded to tell me how it’s the button makers fault and it wasn’t his responsibility and it happens all the time.  This is why he’s my former dry cleaner.  A bad attitude in a service business that is truly a commodity is not a formula for great client retention rates.  The shirts aren’t cheap ($125 or so)  and when a shirt comes back without a button or with a damaged button it sits in my closet and I tend to never wear it again and get annoyed seeing it there.

ShirtSo back to my current dry cleaner.  I was getting dressed the other day and putting on a brightly colored floral  Tommy Bahama shirt and I noticed that two of the buttons were covered in tin foil.  Tin foil?  Now I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about the button problem with my previous dry cleaner but I realized that is because the shirts haven’t come back damaged so why would I have bothered to think about them?  I removed the tin foil and thought about the difference between the dry cleaner that obviously values my  recurring business and the big airlines that will have me cleaning the lavatories in the not to distant future at the rate they are going and charging me extra for the privilege of doing so.

My dry cleaner probably received complaints about broken buttons in the past and could have blamed the button maker, the shirt maker or whomever and may even have been somewhat justified in doing so.  Instead he realized that he’s not really in the dry cleaning business but in the business of making his customers lives a little bit easier.  I’m not sure if the tin foil idea was his original idea or if he researched it or a standard procedure in his business and I really don’t care to know.  What I do care about is that he has the right mindset and it shows in the service I get.  If I was him the only thing I would have done differently is added some sort of note or sticker to the shirt that briefly explained that they’ve put in the extra effort to protect my shirt.

Given that we all need to think and act differently in an economy that is still struggling are you “no longer accepting cash” or are you finding ways to put “tin foil” on your customers buttons?

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Peter Winick has deep expertise in helping those with deep expertise. He is the CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Peter on Twitter!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Remember AMEX Card (2 four letter words) use to be Cash Only (also 2 four letter words). Don’t leave home without all of the above. The 4 letter words are optional.

  2. i don’t disagree with anything you’ve said, peter — but if your dry cleaner truly had the right mindset, he would have removed the tin foil for you!

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