When asked about what was most important to them, people using the buses in New York City just gave the public transport department a big surprise.

In an interesting new report just published by research group Transitcenter, people who ride the buses overwhelming voted that the fancy new innovations being installed on buses (like Wifi and USB sockets) weren’t worth the additional cost of around $2,000 to $3,000 per bus.

What was instead important to them?

  • Service Frequency
  • Travel Time
  • Availability of Information
  • Conditions at the Station and Bus Stops

You know, all of the things which directly impact the primary purpose of the service the customers actually use, which is transportation from point A to point B.

“We’re really not trying to criticize agencies for providing Wi-Fi,” says Steven Higashide, TransitCenter’s senior program analyst. “But it won’t improve service.”

Unfortunately, he says, transit officials sometimes make weird decisions because they’re not the ones taking the bus and subway.

In fact, other cities like San Antonio have had public officials also attribute a rise in ridership to “Wifi and new, comfy seats”, when in reality it was probably the new speedy and convenient express bus service that produced the most growth.

When Leadership confuse technology with innovation

What is happening here is a classic example of company leaders not seeing the difference between improving technology and improving the core value proposition, which is what the customers actually care about.

They think that in order to stay innovative, all you need to do is become more “high tech”, and the experience for the customers will automatically be improved. This is especially true in situations where people in leadership positions don’t actually use their own products, which is much more common than you might imagine.

In other situations, leadership may be fully aware of the quality of their offering, but are willing to sacrifice a degree of customer satisfaction in return for more efficiencies or higher profit margins.

In reality, true innovation comes from understanding what really drives the value of your offering from your customer’s perspective, and doing things which improve that first.

Indeed, by understanding the perceived value of their offering, leadership are actually able to make better informed decisions about where cost efficiencies are possible without impacting the customer’s perspective as much.

But before then, it’s best to walk a mile in their customer’s shoes.

Or in this case, ride their own bus.

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