I wrote a while back about how a big-box home improvement retailer made it less convenient for military folks to receive their in-store discount, while saying the purpose was to make it more so for us.  My original comment was that, gee, it’s interesting, it seems, that every hassle I go through somehow or another always ends up benefitting them (by, for example, making their marketing to me more streamlined…again, for them).

That’s when I realized…the important three words should be:  …for the Customer.  When we’re making things easier, that should be our goal.  Doing so for the Customer, not for us!

In some sense, the systems we devise to “make things easier” are always supposedly a win/win solution.  A commenter mentioned, the store having more information about me and my buying habits—information that they’d be able to collect if I were signed up with the third-party company that was “facilitating” the verification that I’m actually who I say I am—actually helps them help me by better marketing their goods to me based on what they think I may want.  Hm.  Perhaps.  It’s not lost on me that this would also help them by way of my (potentially) making more purchases of these recommended items from them.  Funny though, that for them to realize this benefit, I have to do more work by signing up.  I’m just sayin’.

Another commenter suggested that the brand could make things easier by simply taking my phone number at the point of sale (if I’m cool with it) when I flash my military ID.  Then I could use either my ID or phone number in the future to get the discount.  This could also streamline the check-out process as I would have the option of not having to dig out the ID, and I could even get the discount in the self-checkout lane without having to call the person monitoring that station over to look at my ID.  Hm… smart.

A drawback to the phone number is that, while it’s a lighter-touch way to sign up, it may not make marketing to me any easier.  After all, they don’t usually call or text me on the phone to market to me.  But what about me offering up my email address?  That comes with its own complications with convenience too, though.  Reciting my phone number to a cashier is one thing…it’s ten numbers, and I do so at countless checkout locations around the city at many retail locations when I get gas points from grocery stores or register purchases for other loyalty programs elsewhere.  Calling aloud my email address with the numbers and letters (my name’s not easy to spell) is cumbersome.  Not to mention, do I want to have to do that out loud in front of other Customers?

There is a drug store in my neighborhood (it’s a big brand, you’d know it) that would ask you for your email at checkout every time in an effort to sign you up.  On the one hand, all you need to do is give them that once and you’re done, all signed up, awesome.  Except, saying it out loud isn’t easy, so they incorporated it into the function of the little credit card machine with the stylus that people use to check out.  But even that was a bit of a burden, and whenever I started to do so, I’d feel the pressure of the line backing up behind me at the counter.

And I was expected to enter this information (as I do with my phone number in those other instances I mentioned earlier) every time I go there?  Hm.  Sure, it’s easier in the end…it’s just not easier for the Customer

When we have hard-to-deal-with processes or needs, we try to streamline them and make life easier.  It’s human nature (that’s what’s so awesome about being a Lean practitioner…it comes naturally not because I’m certified, but because I’m a person…we’re all always trying to make things easier).  But for whom are we trying to make things easier?  Next time you’re looking at an internal process and declare, “We should make this easier.”  Don’t forget to tack on three more words:  “for the Customer.”