Sometimes businesses get confused by the latest technologies. Take movie theaters for example: Sure, theater owners have realized that selling tickets over the internet is a great idea because it means shorter lines at the box office, fewer ticket rolls to purchase, and convenience for the customer. But why charge customers for the privilige of saving the theater owners money? Most consumer would agree the price of a movie ticket is already pretty high (over $10 in most cities) and adding a $2 “convenience” charge per ticket is simply highway robbery. Theater owners can put a dollar amount on their savings due to internet sales but customers can’t (time is tough to value, especially when we’re talking minutes in line rather than hours at our jobs).
I can’t help but imagine how much MORE revenue theater owners would realize if they simply made online tickets the same price as box office purchases. I know I’d become a user and I’d certainly give preference to those theaters that offered free online ticketing over those that don’t. Lines at box offices would be shorter meaning theater owners would need fewer cashiers. Theater owners could also capitalize on increasing website traffic by promoting coming attractions while building brand exposure in the minds of some of their most affluent customers. That’s the internet for ya – cheaper, faster, more effective – but movie theater owners seem to think it’s just a novelty for the rich.
Which gets me to Kinko’s. Sure, Kinko’s allows you to upload your documents from your home computer to be printed in store but good luck setting a pick-up time for anything sooner than 4 hours from when you send your files (eons in internet time). The website is also missing important options like lamination, binding, and other services that go along with printing but that’s another story. No, my real frustration at Kinko’s is with the walk-in service.
Last weekend I needed to print and laminate some maps I had saved as PDFs on my flash drive. I only needed a couple copies so I stepped up to the print services counter. The gentleman informed me the turnaround time would be the ‘standard’ 4 hours but that I could use the ‘self-service’ area to make the prints myself. And here’s my problem: The computers in the ‘self-service’ area charge you $0.20 per minute to use them. So to print out two copies of a PDF I had to insert my credit card into the reader beside the computer, open my file, hit ‘print’ in Adobe Acrobat, and logout. The process took 2 minutes – $0.40 on a $4 order (or a 10% surcharge for doing it myself).
If I had given the files to the print services team it would have cost me $0.40 less and would have wasted 5 minutes of a worker’s time (which, at $8 an hour costs Kinko’s $0.67). So Kinko’s clearly has an incentive to steer customers to the self-service area but they’re providing a DISINCENTIVE to customers to actually make that choice. Of course a 4 hour turnaround time is usually enough of a deterrent for most folks but this isn’t how savvy business owners treat customers.
It’s as if the grocery store with self checkout lanes started charging a ‘convenience fee’ for scanning and bagging your own groceries. In a sense customers are already paying for self-checkout by doing the work store owners used to pay their employees to perform.
Technology and in particular the internet have the power to improve efficiency in all types of businesses – but customers shouldn’t be double charged for such improvements. Business owners: Improve your bottom line AND improve the customer experience at once by making convience free!