Saturday, August 26, 2006

Broken Customer Experiences, part 1

This material is based on Seth Godin's talk, available on Google Video, and is referenced with his permission. More fun examples are available on the Web site: Thisisbroken.com.

Seth's hilarious talk has great examples. His content is worth examining more closely. One category is, "It's not my job." If someone makes a sign they know doesn't make sense, but has to do it anyway because it's not their job to solve the real problem, that tells you that the system is broken.

Here's an example I found from the Phoenix airport parking garage.

For whatever reason, the numbering/lettering system that was painted in the parking garage doesn't match the system the rental car company needed to use, so they "fixed" it with this temporary sign. It wasn't someone's job to see if they could change their system to match the parking garage, which would be expensive to repaint.


I had to look at this sign from San Francisco several times before I thought I knew what it meant. (That weirdly-shaped blob at the top I think is a stylized hand, dropping a very stylized piece of litter!) I'll bet the guy who fabricated it thought it didn't make sense, but it wasn't his job to talk to the design department and suggest that it might be broken. How many of these do you think they made, and did they test them on the street with people to discover whether or not they made sense?


Clearly the staff here are problem-solving as they go along, as there must be many visitors to this visitor center who don't read "Closed." But perhaps it's time for a real sign?

I agree with Seth, any time you see a hand-made sign, you are looking at a customer experience that is broken.

Tip of the day: If you are in management, look around for signs that your employees have made. Use that opportunity to discuss the underlying problem, then empower your staff to fix it.

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