Shuffle the service to make it better

Pants first, then the shoes....

When you are designing a service or a customer experience, you sometimes have to do things in a slightly less efficient way.

In other words, you might have to work a little harder backstage to make things smooth for the customer frontstage.

Points to remember:

1. This is hard work. Sorry.
2. But it sells stuff!

I saw a wonderfully simple example of this last week.

Picture the scene: on mega-whizz German express trains they sell coffee by helpfully walking down the carriages with a tray of cups. Nice. The brown stuff is
poodle-scorchingly hot, and superfast trains move oddly, so we have a guy in a blue uniform with a very careful gait and nervous expression as he teeters through the train calling out "Kaffee! Kaffee!".

Sadly, his valiant efforts are in vain, as almost nobody buys any. Ever. Everyone has their eyes down, ears phoned and is busy with their novel, highlighter pen or Great Train Journeys dvd. Our poor public servant is steadily ignored.

But if you watch the rows behind him, you will see a dramatic effect. About five seconds after he passes, people smell the java. They look up with bright caffeine-addict expressions, their hands groping in a tight back pocket for change. They lean out of their seats, ready to order and... the guy is gone.

(Actually, he is about three rows away, but it is far too uncool to call him back. So no-one does.)

The effect was proved last week, when our heroic conductor forgot something. He turned around to fetch it, and was staggered to sell his six cups off coffee within three rows. Three rows of people that he had already walked past, shouting, but who had only noticed him when their noses started speaking to their gastric juices.


Of course, from the workflow perspective it makes a lot of sense to efficiently walk through the train just once, and waste a pretty good service.

From an experience design point of view - ie the customer's - our conductor needs to walk straight through each carriage first to let people smell that richly roasted aroma, then turn round and get selling. Thrice as much walking, but what a difference!

About a million billion years ago, a guy called Aristotle knew that the sequence of events in a story is as important as the events themselves when audiences emotions were to be excited. How does that apply to your service... from the customer's point of view?

Want to read more like this? Click here.
Coffee&lips pic by Bitca at flickr
Coffee&window pic by charliebay at flickr


Anonymous said...

Brilliant. Just brilliant. I agree with you. Sometimes it's painful and counter intuitive. The part I enjoyed the most was the emphasis on the metrics. He turned around becuase he forgot something, and sold 6 cups. It's critical to capture the metrics of a process that might seem counter intuitive.

Adam StJohn Lawrence. said...

Thanks, global!

The best thing was the mild irritation on the guard's face - "Why didn't you stop me before?"

Markus said...

Excellent post.

It again shows that customer experience is by far the most important piece in the whole business puzzle. And, often poorly managed. We should ask Deutsche Bahn whether they have "olfactoric charting" in their method toolkit.

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