Recent visits to three different AMC movie theaters highlighted a clear success factor for building a great digital business strategy.

Customers must be the primary beneficiaries of digital business strategies, certainly before the organisation attempts to reap substantive benefits. The single most important aspect of a digital business strategy must be to enhance the customers typical experience, starting with what they like least about the existing operation. Rule number 1, do not insert manual process in the middle of digital experience.

I wish that my AMC experience is a positive example, but unfortunately this one needs work. AMC obviously started with their internal view of services, experiences and labor costs, ending up with something that is much more aligned with their needs than those of the customer.

The Story

Many theaters I recently visited eliminated a ticket sales window, and kiosks, forcing a long combined line at the concession stand. Recently, after having previously experienced long delays in getting tickets, I had finally decided that I would join the AMC Stubs program. After deciding what movie and when we would go I purchased my tickets through the app, and paid a $3 “convenience fee”. The app stated that I could just show the QR code to the ticket taker. I was excited because I am generally too cheap to buy popcorn so the line is very frustrating. However, things went very wrong!

When I arrived at the theater, just before the start time, I walked up to the corridor where the movie was showing but there was no one there. I looked around as an employee walked by.  I asked where I could scan the QR code and he said “you have to get in line”. After a few words back and fourth I walked over to the line (wishing I had just walked in). After 15 minutes it was finally my turn at the concessions. The attendant scanned my QR code, printed paper tickets, ripped them in half, and sent me on my way. Needless to say I was frustrated. Exactly for whose convenience did I pay a $3 fee?

As one does I tweeted about this, and AMC did respond quickly. First asking me where it occurred, apologising, saying it is something they will address in training. Thanks a bunch. The unavailability of self service ticket kiosks where I could scan the bar code, if nothing else, is mind blowing.

AMC made a common mistake in my view, planning a digital business strategy from the inside out. I believe it looked at labor costs, combined with the benefit of selling concessions, and determined that if every customer had to visit the concessions stand they could cut out ticket selling positions, and customers would be more likely to buy a $20 popcorn deal.

They are pushing the app, which does have benefits for members, but doesn’t solve a basic experience issue. There are separate lines for loyalty status members but with 2-3 people behind the concessions counter both lines back up. In a world where people are streaming content and less likely to visit movie theaters, they better start making it more attractive to come, not less. All I know is the people in the lines were very unhappy.

*This article is reprinted from the Gartner Blog Network with permission. 

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