I was recently staying at a Marriott hotel when I noticed a paper sign hanging on the inside of my door that read "I'm earning points." The sign featured a feather duster and an offer of an extra 500 hotel points for any day that I chose not to have my room tidied up. All I had to do to earn the points was hang the sign on the outside of my door.
Like most frequent travelers, I have learned to appreciate hotel loyalty programs. I imagine myself lying on an exotic beach someday, tropical drink in hand, enjoying my hard-earned points (though admittedly, I am far from that level). Besides, I'm not someone who needs to have daily maid service. If truth be told, there are days when I don't even make my bed at home. So, for me, the decision to accumulate extra points was an easy call.
Of course, the reason the hotel offers such a deal is that it saves labor. We all know how difficult it is to find good workers for our supply chain operations, and I'm sure the same holds true for the hotel business. It's an advantage for the hotel to reduce the amount of work required of their best employees—in this case, by cutting down on the number of rooms that a cleaning person must attend to.
But it got me to thinking, what services are we offering our customers that they really don't want or need?
For instance, I recently toured a distribution center for health and beauty aids that had stopped adding packing chips to its shipping cartons. Their tests revealed that the products' own packaging was sufficient to prevent breakage. They told me that not a single customer had complained to them about the change. Possibly, the customers never even noticed.
Are our customers even aware of the services we add—services that we assume they want but that may simply be adding complexity to our own operations?
Many companies include paper packing lists with their shipments, while also sending electronic versions. Is this redundancy necessary? Is same-day processing and shipping needed for every customer, or would waiting a few days and accumulating multiple orders for that same customer be acceptable, especially if some incentive were offered for agreeing to that?
Are additional quality assurance checks needed if the technology we already have in place catches most mistakes? How expensive is it for us to find those last few errors?
The answer to all of these questions may vary, depending on the products and the customers involved. But how do we know what our customers really value?
We can't always assume we know unless we ask.