When is digital too much? When you put more work on the client, to begin with.
The long-awaited large envelope from FedEx arrived last week. The annual sign that the Formula One United States Grand Prix that my daughter and I attend every year is only a couple of months away. Every year for the past decade, we’ve bought our parking tickets and passes many months in advance and then eagerly waited for the envelope to arrive.
Opening this year’s envelope, I pulled out the parking lot passes and reached for our tickets.
Where were our grandstand seat tickets for our usual venue?
Confused, I pulled out my phone and scrolled down to the original purchase confirmation email. And there it was in fine print at the bottom of the email:
“Show your tickets on your mobile device at the gate. You must be logged into your account manager app to access and manage tickets.”
Well that was a disappointment.
How digital harms the customer experience
I understand a move to digital tickets from potentially both an efficiency and an environmental standpoint: less paper, maybe less on-site staff needed, more control over the secondary market (it’s harder to sell digital tickets), etc. But it also makes a couple of assumptions, and I thought it devalues the overall experience to some degree.
Let’s address the last point first. Hanging in my garage are lanyards and passes from previous races we’ve attended, along with similar ones from the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, and various other high-profile sporting events. Those physical tickets evoke pleasant and fun memories every time we pass in front of them; unfortunately, we won’t be able to add this year’s race to that collection. It may be a small thing, but having a physical reminder of the event is part of the overall experience for us.
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Where digital can’t keep up with print
So let’s move on to the other part of the experience, the digital part. “Show your tickets on your mobile device at the gate.” First, this assumes that each customer has and is comfortable using a mobile device.
Second, I can tell you from experience that cell phone signal at remote race tracks is not ideal and far from reliable, especially on race days when 150,000 people are trying to access the same cell towers. I’m also assuming this means our phones will need to be scanned every time we leave and need to return to our seats in the grandstand. An advantage for the organizers, since they can then map the movements of the clients around the premises.
However, the idea of having to repeatedly shake my phone in large crowds isn’t ideal. A printed ticket on a lanyard around our neck with the Grandstand number on it could be verified at a glance. And if my daughter wants to go out and buy an expensive t-shirt by herself, now she has to take my phone because the digital tickets are on my device, not hers, which means we lose the ability to communicate with each other when we’re apart. ?
The world does not exist in mobile applications
Knowing the potential signal reception problem, I decided to do what I usually do when I get digital tickets to the movies or theater: take a screenshot and put it in the “Tickets” album that I set up in my camera app. telephone. The first step was to open the Ticket Manager app, which, by the way, did not have a link in the confirmation email. Again, there is an assumption that customers are comfortable using the third-party app, can remember what it is called, and know the login and password details for an app that they can use once a year.
I remembered all of that and after a few clicks I navigated to my tickets to receive the note “Screenshots not working: To avoid Wi-Fi issues on race day, save them to your phone’s wallet app.”
We are now on our third app: email, ticket manager and wallet. Is this really any easier than pulling a nicely printed card out of an envelope?
As I mentioned, I’m generally happy with digital tickets for things like movies and theater. These come as a QR code in an email and are easy to capture. But for something as special as this event, did the process need to be so complex?
My step-by-step account of how I downloaded my digital tickets may make me sound a bit of a Luddite, but it got me thinking. Who was this shift to a digital experience made for? Was it just for the convenience of the business and did it have a detrimental effect on the actual experience? What for us is usually a happy experience, getting those tickets out of the envelope turned into a morning of frustration.
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Technology for technology’s sake is not good for CX
I recently read a fascinating book on the concept of smart cities, “Dream States: Smart Cities, Technology, and the Pursuit of Urban Utopias,” by John Lornic. The book included the observation that “technology has a place in cities, but that place is not everywhere.”
I think the same could be said for the customer experience. The digital experience has many benefits, but it is not a blanket solution.
Are we creating digital experiences just because we have the technology to do so? Perhaps for the future we should think less about the technology and more about the actual “experience”.
It’s important that we recognize when digital gets in the way of the experience itself.