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Have you ever been to a movie theater?

I’m sure you have.

last mile is the only one that counts
Last Mile

How many times have you left the movie theater just 5 minutes before the movie finished?

Not a single time?!? Sure. Why would you? People don’t do that, right?!? People watch a movie to the end. Coz, for god sake, the best part of the movie is usually the end.

It can be a happy end.

It can end very dramatic.

Or it can indicate something beautiful that you can imagine and leave the cinema with a wonderful feeling, inspired and happy…

Well, you might find it quite normal not to miss the last moments. But you know what?!? There are people who actually do it! There are people who do leave the cinema 5 minutes before the movie ends and they miss the happy, the dramatic or the inspiring moment!

These people leave the movie theater 5 minutes before the movie ends. They wait then outside of the cinema and ask the others what was the ending like? They prefer – let’s call it – a second hand version of the ending. These people work in big companies or – I shall say – bad companies. They call this second-hand movie ending: net promoter score, customer satisfaction, delivery KPI, you name it…

They just hate crossing the finish line by themselves, they are leaving the race a few meters before that and then are trying to find out who has won.

Sounds strange?!?

Well, maybe but if you want to miss the real thing and rather keep guessing what it looks like - this IS a proven, corporate, institutionalized way to do so, supported by bad consultants and disconnected HQ departments. Let’s call them a business flee marketers or second hand junkies.

It has really happened to me

This is a story about how they are missing the point and how you shouldn’t.

It is a story about the last mile excellence.

Let’s start with my personal experience:

I was flying from Germany to Mexico City with a well-established airline. It was a night flight that started early evening, so the dinner was served. The flight attendant handed the tray with the nicely arranged plates to me and gave me a smile. I put the magazine away and removed the foil from the bowl with the main dish. It was a beef steak with vegetables. I cut off a piece of the meat and lifted it with a fork into my mouth. Yuck! The meat was cold. The cold fork was even warmer than the piece of steak.

I flashed down the yucky taste with a sip of a red wine, and the last mile phenomenon came to my mind.

I thought:

This airline invests substantial money into logistics. Its sourcing managers are just perfect in getting the best ingredients for meals. It employs superb chefs who cook the meals, and the pilots are well trained and well paid.

They invest time, money and resources into the product development, marketing, distribution, operations, etc.

At the end of the process, of the journey, is the customer.

The level of effort and attention is high from the beginning but then – when it comes to the delivery – it drops dramatically, like the life curve of a turkey just before the thanksgiving.

So why is that?!?

Why some companies are behaving – I shall say mis-behaving like that?

Black box

For many companies the last mile is a black box. Nobody knows exactly what is going on out there. Some of them have recognized that there is a last mile problem but they still look at it from an inside-out perspective. For them the journey starts in the company, so the customer appears at the end of the journey.

But for the customer, the journey starts where he or she is. The company’s last mile is the customer’s first mile. It is the only mile he cares about. For the customer, all the other miles are irrelevant.

If a company can anticipate it, and if it can translate it into a meaningful service and a respectful treatment, it will have a customer for life*

*Just recently, my friend got a baby. As a fresh and a responsible father, he has decided to open a combined fund saving account for his new born son Simon. He was not sure which account to open first, so he decided to call the customer service of the online bank. He explained his issue and got advice. He opened the accounts and went to bad. Next day a parcel arrived at his house – it was a present for his baby, a present from the bank. There was even a hand-written note, saying: “All the best to Simon, etc.” So, they have even caught and remembered the baby’s name. It was the last mile of a company’s process, the first one for my friend, and what a first one for Simon. My friend is doing a good marketing job for this bank via word of mouth since then…

… if a company does not care about the last mile, it will be losing clients and money and it will not understand why.

Be honest to yourself and describe the last mile you offer to your customers. If it is not a happy end, what is it?

Is it a tunnel?

Or a wall?

Or maybe an abyss?

A dead end street?

Whatever it is you may ask yourself: what to do to fix it?

Well, there are probably different ways to fix it.

What about getting rid of the black box? And use some common sense:

Each of us – besides an employee in an organization – is a customer himself: we are customers of a local bakery, we are clients of the grocery shop, we get served at the gas station, we buy insurance policies, we have bank accounts and we are customers of mobile operators, etc. etc.

Top wishes

Now, if you think about the three top wishes a customer, well you as a customer, consider most important, they include:

No waiting – we don’t like waiting.

No overpaying – it is obvious.

Being well treated – we like to be respected.

Why not to ask everybody in your organization, from a reception clerk to call center agent, from sales person to middle manager and the CEO to do just the three things when they do their jobs:

Don’t make anybody wait or overpay, and treat them well.

Here we go: you have automatically produced a WOW-effect!

Everybody is now a Chief Last Mile Officer:

Happy employees + happy customers = happy business.

And so it goes…

From time to time, somebody in the organization has a brilliant idea of just asking the customer. It triggers all kind of projects, analysis and search. Very soon, the excitement of having a direct customer feedback is replaced by a much cheaper approach. Market specialists offer Plan B that does the job, too. Afterwards one can say: we have tried and did our best.

The customer is still wondering where all the guys are who are supposed to serve him.

The answer is: They are busy building block by block, mile by mile, a gigantic machine that includes: product development, pricing, operations, marketing and sales. The company’s view make sense for the company. They just stop at the last mile.

For the customer this is the first and the only mile at all. For the customer and in fact also for the companies, this is the only mile where business happens. Companies that manage to bring light into this black box, become leaders of their industries and beyond.


Here is the last mile movie for you:

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