Controlling Your Costs as a Small Business Tech Strategy

How JetBlue Paved a New Path in an Old Industry

When I'm teaching, I like to tell a story about JetBlue.

In the early 2000's, many of JetBlue's competitors were offshoring customer service. The strategy was effective in reducing the cost associated with delivering customer service, but satisfaction ratings were way down. The customer offshore experience included line condition quality, language barriers, and lots of hassle over relatively small matters. Airline customers weren't happy and they dreaded making the phone call.

JetBlue wanted to offer a different experience. And in 2004, JetBlue did something different. They invested in technology that would allow Customer Service Representatives (CSR's) to work part-time and from home, using their own equipment, their own Internet connection.  Doing so would allow JetBlue to tap into a labor market of fluent English/native speakers, and best yet: they'd be contractors instead of employees, reducing JetBlue's overhead in managing FTE (Full Time Equivalent) employees.

What Did JetBlue Do Differently?

JetBlue employed a cost containment strategy. You guys remember me talking about that stuff in June, right? They spent a little money on IT solutions that'd allow them to grow and be competitive, but in the long run, would be cheaper than, say, owning their own call center and staff.

Small businesses can use technology in just the same way. Think about it: where can tech be applied in your business that'd allow you to increase customer volume yet not introduce additional overhead? Good examples:

  • U-Scan machines at grocery marts that push labor back on the consumer;
  • Self-ordering technologies at restaurants, bars, and casinos;
  • Social media marketing - let others sell your business for you;
  • Quick-pay technologies like Near-Field Communication and other standards that'll allow consumers to pay from their cell phones;
  • Apps on mobile devices that engage the consumer in everyday functions;
  • Telecommuting and VoIP telephony solutions - phones, anywhere, anytime;
  • Supply Chain Management (SCM) and routing software for maps using GPS - allowing your delivery vehicles to get exactly where they need to be, and to monitor them;
  • Website solutions that allow a customer to answer a question or perform a transaction without calling you;
  • Cloud based business solutions that don't require you to purchase software, servers, specialized networking hardware, or systems maintenance;
  • Business without physical overhead - no leased space, taxes, or utilities.

Why Don't You Zag Instead of Zig?

The possibilities are truly endless. And the idea is to think different from your competitors. To do something and offer a competitive value that is unique and distinctive. What you want to look at:

  • How can an investment in technology today yield a lower commitment to labor, yet, allow you to take on more business volume?
  • Where can an opportunity be found to be smarter about a business process? Where greater information could result in better decisions, fewer errors, and less cost?
  • Is there a technology that enables the consumer to self-service their needs with you?
  • Is there a technology that enables you and your workforce to work from anywhere?

Just a couple of good ideas. Next time: growth and alliances.

R