How low flying airlines can reach a new service altitude.

The latest from James Dodkins

In recent times I have talked about Successful Customer Outcomes (SCOs), those things that we should seek out on behalf of our customers to ensure we deliver and exceed their expectations.
If we align our organizations to SCOs (rather than industrial age silos) we become slicker, more agile, and indeed more profitable. In this article I’ll explore how operators in one industry can, via SCOs, rethink their business to survive and prosper in the hard times ahead.

I’ve been flying regularly for 10 years or more, and in the last twelve months I’ve clocked up over 150,000 miles; my lifetime mileage must be reaching interplanetary levels. I’ve traveled (and often grappled) with eleven different airlines this year, so I feel pretty well qualified to provide my take on what the airline industry should be doing to make the customer experience significantly better.

I’m going to concentrate here on what’s known as ‘Next Practice’
ideas that go beyond simply emulating the best efforts of the competition. The more progressive companies are already testing some new offerings and proving through sustained customer loyalty that it is possible to prosper while traditional incumbents stumble and fail. I hope to show that there is a lot more that could be being done.

Eight Next Practice Offerings

Here are eight examples of SCO-oriented service offerings that I would like to see adopted. These eight are taken from a list that is much longer, and I am sure you could add to my choices. You might also want to consider what an equivalent list could look like for your industry.

1. In-flight Entertainment - Seat Back Video
Virgin have provided this service for years and it undoubtedly adds to the flying experience. Anyone who has sat behind a large individual (sometimes wearing a cowboy hat) or is challenged in the altitude department will know exactly what I mean. And yet with the current malaise affecting some of the old airlines what are they considering doing to reduce cost? They are going to remove their primitive over-hanging screens to save on weight! Wow, that’s really going to help win more business and give them a viable future (not).

- On Demand Edutainment
Now things are moving. Being able to select from a range of films, news and all that TV can offer creates a more customisable experience that meets everyone’s needs. Once more Virgin lead the pack here and continue to push this out, even into Economy. The technology is not expensive so what stops the others following suit? It’s simple: focusing on the wrong things, having the wrong priorities, and clinging to the delusion that the current problems are just a blip.

- Connectivity: Pocket PCs, Smart Phones and Playstations
Many of us carry libraries of music and video. Our children have dozens of games. Creating the environment where the airline trip is actually ‘time out’ takes the experience to a whole new level. It isn’t about waiting to arrive – the journey becomes an end in itself. Hooking up our electronic gizmos and providing interactivity is another step in the right direction.

2. In-flight Internet

Time out is not what everybody wants though. While it can sometimes be a blessing for frequent fliers to get away from an always-on world, this should be a choice not an imposition. Most carriers take the imposition route and resist the straightforward step of in-flight internet. Lufthansa went there in 2003 and offer full access to mail and the web. That makes them the airline of choice for many who have little else to do as they traverse the skies of Europe.

There is no technical reason to resist this change. Some airlines insist it is a large cost overhead and that the related regulation is still vague. Hogwash. With Teutonic efficiency the Germans are leading the way and will continue to win business as others procrastinate.

3. In-flight Phone
A word on the phone – precisely something you can’t do very well at the moment. Even the FAA aren’t in the way of conversations at 35,000’ – they just carry the blame (quite wrongly) as airlines seek to protect their investments in hardwired back of the seat lumps of plastic that no one uses because of the expense.

4. Read & Leave
Reading is such a popular pastime on flights that a whole genre of fiction has developed – the airport novel. Easily read and soon forgotten these books tend not to find a permanent place on the bookshelf at home. Why not bring these books on board? Rather than buy them, customers could browse, read and leave behind whatever took their fancy. Condensed novels, chapter samplers and short stories could also come into their own as word length and flight time are aligned.

Book retailing is a competitive business, so there is a commercial angle that could be exploited. Intelligent use of sponsorship, discounts for subsequent purchases and other promotions should make this at least a cost-neutral offering. Perhaps the airlines are just waiting to exploit the technology that already exists to make e-books available. Should they get the benefit of the doubt?

5. Better Deals for Regular Customers
Frequent flyers - privileged or tolerated? I would suggest that airlines have very different views on this question. Generally frequent flyers are treated as non-paying passengers rather than as loyal customers. Why do accumulated miles only buy seats on the off-peak flights? I can understand the short term view of making individual flights as profitable as possible, but inconveniencing your best customers seems a strange way to run a successful business.
Surely to have prime-time flights busy with your most loyal customers is the practice
of a customer-centric business.

6. Miles for Favors
Access to popular flights is not the only benefit that should be available to the regular flyer. The experience can be easily enhanced by trading miles for in-flight benefits: drinks, food upgrades, gifts etc. With a bit of thought a frequent flyer could become a walking (seated?) advert for becoming a regular customer. “How do I get those benefits?” is not a bad question to plant in the minds of new customers.

7. Sponsored Beverages
What springs to mind when I mention in-flight coffee? The smell of fresh ground beans wafting along the aisle? I didn’t think so. I sometimes wonder whether the coffee on board is so bad because it discourages us from asking for it, keeping the aisles clear for the more profitable activities like the duty free trolley. Sponsored coffee provision from the likes of Costa Coffee or Starbucks would raise the quality and cut the cost.

8. Easy Upgrades
For some airlines this is a contradiction in terms. I travelled on a major national airline recently and discovered the phenomenon of the non-upgradeable ticket. Bounced between check-in and the “Customer Service Desk” (another contradiction in terms) I learned that I “had bought the wrong ticket” and “didn’t understand how these things worked”. Faced with the choice of paying again for a completely new ticket or accepting my fate, I chose the latter and spent the flight grumpily eyeing the empty Business Class seats from the crowded Economy cabin. Needless to say I won’t be warming the seats of that particular airline again.

Contrast this with an experience on another airline where my request to upgrade using frequent flyer miles was met with “that’s OK sir, I’ll upgrade you without taking the miles”. The difference is not better process or rules – it’s a question of culture.

And this highlights one of the key points that emerged as I sifted through my travel experiences for this article. Some of the most striking experiences I have had have come from individuals being able to do the right thing (even the unexpected thing) when it matters. A flight attendant who apologises for the fact that we are not flying on one of the brand new aircraft in the fleet (but which is still is better than most); the generous and immediate compensation for a mid-flight entertainment system failure. These responses come from liberated staff in customer-focused organizations.

Successful Customer Outcomes come from, and are delivered through, people – they should be given the opportunity to innovate to be great.

Kindest Regards

James Dodkins
Chief Customer Officer
BP Group

Twitter - @JDodkins

PEX Network highlights and upcoming Process/Performance/Outside In conferences

The PEX Network continue to host the most vibrant networked conferences with pragmatic hands-on speakers relating their case studies. Quite different to the talking heads events featuring industry dinosaurs telling us the same old same old!

You can review the photo highlights from this years Europe event below however if you want to sharpen your pencil review the next upcoming process, performance and Outside In PEX conferences in (places go quickly so book soon) :

Australia - July - PEX, Australia, July 2013
San Francisco - September - BPM Summit, USA, September 2013
Orlando - January -

Is you Executive Team Sleeping at the Wheel?

Despite the ongoing meltdown in the financial sector it seems, from my discussions last week as we undertake the annual BP Group survey, that many senior managers, apparently responsible for processes and performance management are oblivious to the immediate dangers during this current crisis.

Almost as if the global brand makes them immune from economic reality they put down the failings elsewhere to some sort of black magic. Please if that's the way you feel - wake up and smell the coffee!

Never before has there been a time to step forward and guide your organization by accelerating cost reduction, improving service and preserving revenues the only way businesses can - through their business and performance management processes.

If you find yourself the pending victim of 'asleep at the wheel' then your choices are straight forward:

1. Blow the whistle and write to the CEO/COO/CIO anonymously (otherwise in the resulting car wreck your job may be one of those that goes)

2. And if you are the CEO/CIO/COO then ask the question "How much can we reduce costs by focusing on successful outcomes?". If the answer is anything less than 30% in 12 months you know where the first cost cuts start!

This is not the time for the faint hearts and excuses. The time for action is now.

Kindest Regards

James Dodkins
Chief Customer Officer
BP Group

Twitter - @JDodkins

Great week for reviewing the State of the Process Nation - download them there resources before they go :)

How many places can you go for information?
At the BP Group we have at least TEN, and here are the links:
- 283 articles on Advanced BPM
- 200+ articles on process improvement
- Over 50 videos on the theme
- More than 70 presentations (downloadable)
- 80+ courses leading to the Certified Process Professional qualification (CPP) all over the globe through 2013/14
- for all things and links Outside In
- Professional qualifications since 1992 - FREE course featuring the Secret Sauce - Testimonials about us - 11,000 members networking with ideas

All the Very Best

First Steps into Outside-In Thinking Part 4c) - A Methodology we can all apply & Aligned Success Measures

Sustained change is best effected if it can be articulated in a way the whole organisation can understand and be part of. Make the tools and approaches complex using terminology you need significant training to understand means and they will be sidelined a department with the ability to handle that specialisation. Such departments maintain credibility if they are seen to be consistently performing but as soon as underperformance or failure is perceived they can be disenfranchised, or worse disappear.

The thinking, tools and techniques within Outside-In can be applied directly to our own organisations after less than a week of training. The terminology used can be adopted if necessary across an enterprise although in reality many will apply the tools and making changes without ever having to be too specific as to the techniques used. This may range from the individual improving performance from the context of the remit where they have influence to sustained change programmes at an organisation level. Change which the whole organisation can relate to and understand is more likely to succeed than change prescribed by specialists using language we only partly understand.

The world’s most successful organisations are often characterised as those where the staff are seen to be driving and feel part of the business. Giving staff a practical understanding of the techniques that enable change will turn change into an opportunity rather than a perceived threat.

Success Measures aligned to business success measures
Ultimately any change has to be judged under the measures that directly relate to the business – revenue, cost base, shareholder value, market penetration as well as softer but still important qualitative measures e.g. customer satisfaction, market reaction, analyst appraisal.

Outside-In can impact all of these measures and moreover simultaneously – this is referred to as the Triple Crown.

First Steps into Outside-In Thinking Part 4b) - Sustained Focus and Reduced Complexity

Outside-In is more than a series of tools and techniques to view and improve our business. It is designed as ‘practical thinking’ or a ‘business attitude’ to be orientated to as much of the business that the practitioner or management requires. If implemented to the greatest degree then a company may design and represent its organisation charts around the customer with the customer as the driving central theme. It may represent performance measures using Outside-In measures as its KPIs.

The thinking does not prevent other techniques to be used in analysing and improving our business but it does ensure Successful Outcome is maintained as a central theme even when CEO’s, boards and senior managers change. If focus is only maintained at a tools and techniques level they tend to be pigeon holed into a specific silo and more likely to become forgotten or ignored as the latest panacea for change raises its head.

Taking the Complexity out of how we view our business

One of the issues that change practitioners face is that of the underlying complexity of the business we are trying to improve or change.

How many changes to the way we do business seem obvious once we have identified what they are but somehow eluded us when we are looking at our businesses as a ‘haystack’ of processes?
When we move from high level management representations to process detail, a much more complex picture emerges which we have defined on the basis on that’s what we do. But if we look at that process again from the customer viewpoint then the process is very different. Outside-In shows that the way we traditionally view process is an illusion and prevents us from viewing business in a way to enable significant change.

Viewing what we do from the perspective of the customer enables us to think of performance change initiatives that would never been possible if we had studied our business from the traditional left to right top to bottom basis inherited from the industrial change.

First Steps into Outside-In Thinking Part 4a) - The Successful Customer Outcome

There are a number of key supporting themes - the first is "Exclusive focus on Successful Customer Outcome (SCO)"

The approach, distilled from global leading companies, is Customer Expectation Management
Method (CEMMethod), has a set of principles and philosophy that ensures everything you do is aligned to and improves the SCO. CEMM helps an organization bring their processes, systems, strategy and people into ‘outside-in’ alignment.

Every company in business will impact the SCO to a degree – they have to otherwise customers would not buy. OI is built on the philosophy that the better a company impacts its SCO the greater proportion of available business its going to win as a result. Further applying the thinking takes you to places (ie business opportunities) that competition has never been able to exploit and perhaps never thought about.

Apple are producing apps that people never thought they needed whereas Nokia who have built what they believe is technology superiority has had to re-think their approach to business amidst falling revenues and margins. Southwest are close to the era of the free flight ticket and enjoying consistent profitability whereas British Airways are going through possibly the worst business fortunes in its history.

OI is designed on the premise if a process or operation does NOT contribute to the Successful Customer Outcome – you don’t do it! On first analysis this may appear difficult to rationalise – most organisations have non-customer facing departments – how can the principle of the SCO still apply?

If you think about it, an airline is a business which are made up of the same commodity components – similar aeroplanes, customers with roughly the same wants/needs, airports with the ability to offer the same services (if they choose) – yet some operators are flying high and others are sinking towards government bailout or bankruptcy. Both SouthWest and BA will claim customer centricity but OI defines the important outcome components that are critical to business success and under this lens it becomes very clear that BA is left wanting.

First Steps into Outside-In Thinking Part 3 - What is OI in the context of the BP Group?

1. Outside-In is a philosophy and method of managing an organisation by understanding and
delivering Successful Customer Outcomes.

2. Outside-In Process optimizes value-delivery to customers. By fusing customer-driven process with customer-centric strategies, O-I creates successful customer outcomes (SCOs) – the foundation for achieving sustainable growth and profitability in an increasingly buyer-driven marketplace.(Customer ProcessOne Council, May 2010)

There are many accreditations in the process space. This BP Group community is sponsored by which in turn advocates the Certified Process Professional qualification ( ).

There are five levels of recognition:
• Certified Process Practitioner (CPP-Practitioner)
• Certified Process Professional (CPP-Professional)
• Certified Process Master (CPP-Master)
• Certified Process Advanced Master (CPP-AdvMaster) 
• Certified Process Champion (CPP-Champion) 


A significant part of that hands-on learning is focused on Outside-In and includes discussion of various methods such as CEMMethod

There is a rapidly developing cadre of people and organisations delivering Outside-In training, consultancy and advisory services with case studies, presentations and podcasts at

The Annual BP Group conferences have a strong flavour of Outside-In with notable organisations who are the pioneers of Outside-In present and delivering case studies, tutorials and workshops. Not least of which is Steve Towers book – Outside-In,
now in its third edition ( )

First Steps into Outside-In Thinking Part 2 - Origins of Outside-In

Despite all the issues documented in Part 1, there have been companies who have regularly ‘bucked’ the trend and posted great business results, grown significantly and sustained that growth.

Outside-In has been built on the approaches and lessons learnt from those companies who have managed to beat the competition and moreover delivered market beating results on a sustained basis. The approaches and techniques have been developed to be easily applied even to those organisations that have already been through numerous change iterations and believe they are as efficient as they could expect to get.

For example SouthWest Airlines posts 58 consecutive quarters of profit when most of their competition made huge losses – in the case of Delta this has been billions AND more than once ‘achieved’ in just a quarter! Apple have introduced innovative new products and regularly posted impressive results and increasing market share when organisations like Motorola who used to be one of the main players in the mobile handset market have dramatically suffered despite having gone through numerous iterations of business improvement.

First Steps into Outside-In Thinking Part 1 - The Challenge

First published by the BP Group 3 years ago here's some of the mindset behind Outside In.

If we consider the challenges of succeeding in business in the 21st century, most major companies would come up with a similar list:

When they talk about their customers
> Competition is fierce, global and increasing.
> Customers have become rebellious, they realise they have the right to alternatives and they frequently exercise that right.
> Customers have high expectations, they demand more and unless that demand is met they will go elsewhere.
> Customers demand choice, comprehensive information and the best price.

When they talk about their operations
> Operations, structures and business flows are becoming ever more complex
> The process of change is becoming ever more complex as the obvious improvements are delivered and the focus is on looking for new improvements often with diminishing returns
> A significant proportion of change projects under-perform and do not achieve the desired outcome
> There are so many alternative methods to effecting change out there it is difficult to select which one makes most sense for my business

When they talk about their overall business performance
> I fundamentally believe I offer a superior product and/or service but I’m still struggling to make the returns I believe possible
> I strive to be a market leader, I believe we have the capability to be a market leader but the issues above prevent me from getting there
> It is difficult to markedly cut my costs without impacting my service levels
> The impact of the global recession has affected my business and our fortunes won’t markedly improve until the business environment improves.

There may be additional comments however this is typical of observations from companies all over the world. And it is getting worse.

It isn’t though we don’t have choice in improvement approaches. As of 2010 there were over 6000 improvement methodologies all geared to helping organisations improve performance. How do you decide which one works best? How do you ensure sustained business improvement when the average CEO in the 21st century lasts 3 years and each new regime brings fresh ideas but a lot of the same issues?

See more of the thinking, practice and qualify as a Certified Process Professional (CPP)


High Performance Organisations (HPOs) are those that achieve and sustain industry leading financial and operational performance.

We have conducted research on 350+ HPOs in the last 8 years, across the following sectors:
investment banking
information technology
light manufacturing
high-tech manufacturing

Many of our findings were expected, such as HPOs have a high level of customer and process focus. They are always on continuous improvement mode. They aspire to develop and execute strategies that deliver both short-term and long-term results. Many other things HPOs do well. No surprises there.

However, we also found that there were many areas where improvements were difficult to bring forth, such as change management, high quality leadership, corporate citizenship, cycle-time, operational excellence, sustainability practices, employee motivation, and customer centricism.

We explain these findings in terms of 1,000 Best Practices in our forthcoming book titled: The High Performance Organisation, to be published in 2013. The list of organisations we feature in the HPO book are presented below:
Southwest Airlines
Tata Steel
Singapore Airlines
Samsung Electronics
Hutchinson Whampoa
Toyota Motor
Walt Disney
Adobe Systems
BNP Paribas
HSBC Holdings
Johnson & Johnson
American Express
Berkshire Hathaway
Banco Santander
China Construction Bank
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
Mizuho Financial Group
Virgin Media
Huawei Investment Holdings
Marriott International
British American Tobacco
Vodafone Group
Robert Bosch
Inditex Group