December 14, 2001, Newsletter Issue #16: Focus Your Business on What Matters

Tip of the Week

Consider what airlines could do to be successful in times like these, and then apply the same reasoning to your online business -- trying to break out of the mold of customary thinking and deal with all the factors that matter to your customers.

The objective of an airline should be to enable people to travel long distances in the shortest possible time, at the lowest possible cost. Customers care about the total travel time -- from when they leave home/office to when they arrive at the final destination. Time spent in ground transport to and from the airport and time spent at the airport, and time spent on the runway are just as important as the time spent in the air. Likewise, travelers focus on the total cost of travel, not just on the price of the ticket. For business travelers, that cost includes the cost of ground transportation, and also the business cost of time in which no productive work can be done, and the time lost in recuperation at the destination because the trip left the traveler exhausted and stressed, and also the cost of accommodations when transportation schedules make it so they can`t return or move on to their next stop on the same day.

Airports could have separate terminals for people and for goods. For instance, one terminal could handle cargo of all kinds, including traveler luggage. And another terminal could handle passengers only -- with no carry-ons. The most dangerous and hard-to-handle security situations appear to arise from the combination of passengers and luggage. Separating them, handling them in separate terminals, and carrying them on separate planes should simplify matters, lowering costs and speeding the check-in process. NB -- one cargo place (designed to handle cargo and only cargo) could carry the luggage associated with several different passenger flights. Passengers could have the option of picking up their luggage at the cargo terminal of the destination airport or (for a price) having it delivered to their hotel or residence.

If they followed this scheme, airlines could also make good use of the additional available space on their passenger flights -- not just to add more seats, but to organize the space available in ways that help business people be more productive -- enabling them to do their work and to meet with one another, or, at the very least, making the trip as comfortable as possible so they arrive rested, refreshed, and alert.

Likewise, airlines could and should make close partnerships with ground transportation companies, to do everything possible to minimize the time wasted going to and from airports. Ideally, you should be able to catch a van at a downtown terminal. The van driver should be qualified, authorized, and equipped (with wireless computer) to check passengers in, to label their luggage (for delivery to the cargo terminal), and to deliver the people close to their departure gates, where they undergo a quick but thorough and effective security check of their persons (no luggage of any kind being allowed inside the passenger terminal). At the other end, vans should be waiting (for those willing to pay for this service) which deliver passengers to downtown terminals and/or destination hotels, where their luggage can later be delivered.

Whatever your business, your goal should be to serve your customers, meeting all their related needs and expectations -- not just doing the things that are easiest to do or most profitable. When you go out of business, you make no profit at all.

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