Trends, Payphones and Missed Opportunities

It’s no secret that everybody’s wired these days, and that public payphones are going the way of the dinosaur. The folks at Miami International Airport are apparently aware of this, so they have removed the old payphones from the walls and replaced them with… nothing.

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I took the picture above yeaterday, as I was on MIA waiting for my flight to Brazil. I noticed that there were a few plug boxes underneath the empty payphone area so I plugged my Blackberry on one of them. Suddenly, other travelers discovered the other plug boxes and gathered around the area, standing or sitting on the floor, while their different electronic devices charged (I apologize for the bad picture; I didn’t want to use the flash and freak people out…):

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Fast forward to a few hours later, at Sao Paulo Guarulhos airport. Apparently they’re also aware of the decline of the payphone and the fact that people now travel with cell phones and laptops that need to be charged.

Unlike their counterparts in MIA, however, they didn’t just remove the payphones. They decided to make it easy for passengers to charge their gear, so they installed these user friendly plug towers and positioned them close to where passengers can comfortably seat.

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But they even went a step further: recognizing that an airport is frequented by people from many different places who don’t necessarily use the same type of plug, they’ve equipped the towers with both American style (white) and European style (red) plug boxes.

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The moral of the story (there is always one) is this: it’s not enough to recognize a trend. We must also take advantage of it as an opportunity to create a better customer experience.

And now for the bonus round: if you look again at the first picture above, you may notice that some people are obviously using the space left vacant by the payphones to leave their empty food containers and water bottles. Aside from the fact that some people are just plain lazy and uncivilized, food in the concourse is another trend resulting from the fact that we don’t get food on planes any more. There wasn’t, however, a single trash can for as far as my sight could reach. So, a few extra trash cans would be nice to go with our charging stations, please.

Are there any trends taking shape around your business? How can you turn them into an opportunity to delight your customers?

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