McDonald’s has long dominated the fast-food market by providing a consistent product to customers at a very quick pace. In fact, 70% of McDonald’s revenue is derived from the drive-through window where customers are served their orders at an average of 208 seconds. Speed was the special sauce for its business success.
Yet, in today’s consumer trend toward a fast-causal dining experience, think Chipotle, MacDonald’s is facing pressure to find a balance between speed and quality to remain competitive. To adapt to this trend McDonald’s is upping the quality of its flagship burger, the Quarterpounder, by preparing it with freshly ground hamburger, not frozen as has been the practice for decades. The result? Customers will now have to wait a minute longer to get their Quarterpounder served to them. What happens when the McDonald’s business model, based on speed and consistency, is turned on its head? Some customers are now weighing the difference between speed versus quality and siding with speed.
Even the National Pastime, Major League Baseball, has begun to look at their business model, the actual game, for ways to economize the time people spend watching. I was recently in Detriot and took in a Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels baseball game. It had been a few years since I had been in a Major League ballpark so I was stunned to see a game clock positioned in Comerica ballpark on the stands behind the first-base dugout. The clock counted down between innings and whenever a manager walked out of the dugout to speak with a pitcher. Other rules governing batters in the batter’s box are also attempting to speed up gameplay.
In the performing arts world, organizations have defined themselves based on artistic excellence. Performances over the years have swung from complete performances of works to cut versions and back to full versions without much attention paid to how the decisions impact the customer or patron. The driving reason behind most of these time shifts had more to do with union contracts and overtime than any other factor.
The larger trend here is how time is being perceived by customers. While there will always be debates about what programming an arts organization should present to its community, there is no doubt that today’s audiences perceive time and their commitment to it differently. The effects on arts organizations radiate well beyond the actual performance.
Here are some areas where a customer’s investment of time matters with respect to the overall experience.
- Ticketing – Mobile technology is turning the traditional box office into a dinosaur. Customers, especially millennials, want the ability to view potential events and purchase tickets on their mobile device, on their timetable. Organizations that ignore this part of their box office believing their audiences don’t value mobile ticketing are in deep trouble.
- Transportation – With urban centers becoming more congested, have you been to Austin, Texas lately, organizations need to communicate to customers their options for getting to the performance venue. There is more opportunity here than just pointing out where the nearest parking garage is located. Organizations need to build relationships with public transportation and companies such as Lyft and Uber to deliver patrons quickly and safely to their destinations.
- Concessions – What’s the point of attending a performance when you have to spend the entire intermission waiting in line to get a drink only to gulp it down and run back into the theater? Intermission lengths may not have to be longer, but there is ample room for them to run more efficiently. Why can’t customers purchase their drink and other food items during the ticket buying process? The items can then be prepared ahead of time and located where they could be retrieved during the intermission.
- Venue Seating – Venues have been built based on concepts that are sorely out of date. Seating in most venues is still cramped and uncomfortable. If you are shifting in your seat every five minutes of a performance then the experience is diminished. I personally have a list of theaters that I will not attend because of the seating. In others, I only purchase a ticket if I can sit in a certain area.
- Restroom Facilities – Restrooms are another area where slowly the number of opportunities available to men, women and those with physical impairments has become more equal. There’s still a long way to go here, however. Facilities need to adapt to the needs of their audience and how the movement of an audience during and intermission matters almost as much as the performance.
Time will always be a factor in the lives of the consumer. How organizations adapt to the changing attitudes and restraints of their customers will benefit the most when it comes to shaping an engaging customer experience. By looking at the entirety of the customer experience organizations can create opportunities for meaningful relationships that will generate both greater loyalty and support for the future.
My time up! Goodbye!