Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Researchers study disgust: How it applies to you

If you scan the coupon inserts in the Sunday paper, you might already be aware that Americans are obsessed with cleanliness. Every other coupon is for air freshener, air sanitizer, or hand sanitizer, with seemingly endless variations on misters, oil plug-ins, scented candles, and lighted scent dispensers.

It turns out that researchers have been studying this trend as well. This article in Fast Company magazine describes research conducted by Andrea Morales at Arizona State University on shoppers' attitudes of disgust and contamination in retail environments. They learned that shoppers are less likely to buy, or pay full price for, shirts that have been returned or were being tried on by another customer.

Morales' recommendations to retailers are to
1) put new price tags on returned items,
2) make certain dressing rooms are clean,
3) remove merchandise left behind by other customers in dressing rooms, and
4) to keep clothes folded neatly, not dumped in bins.

I believe this applies to other environments as well, such as museums. If you have interactives that get grubby, visitors may be less likely to use them. If you have children's dress-up areas, make sure you launder the costumes regularly and keep them in good condition.

Dressing areas at health-care offices should be kept extra clean, and gowns there in good condition. If you provide storage lockers or bins, make sure that other people's items, or dirt, doesn't build up, leaving patients (or gym members) feeling that their things got contaminated.

I've already spent a week blogging about the importance of bathrooms in the customer experience, and cleanliness is the basic minimum there.

Tip of the day: Whatever your business, basic maintenance is a must. You should be striving for providing an environment that feels extra-clean, so your customers don't pick up this feeling of contamination while visiting you. It will hurt your sales, and may also reduce people's desire to return. At worst, it could create negative word-of-mouth advertising.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

What does a seamless experience look like?

Albuquerque, NM: My last stop in Albuquerque was one of the highlights, and illustrates what a seamless, authentic experience looks like.

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center celebrates all the pueblos (tribal nations) of New Mexico. The building blends into the landscape, and the materials reflect the nature of the museum content.

A beautifully carved door is the focal point for the Welcome as you walk in.

The seating showcases the artistry of the pueblo nations.

The gift shop offers works for sale by pueblo artisans, helping to keep these cultures alive.

Every weekend different pueblos come to the center and present their unique dances. These Zuni women are dancing with pots balanced on their heads, the only pueblo culture to do this pottery dance. (It was really windy that day, making it all the more challenging and impressive.) They were dripping with turquoise and silver jewelry and their creamy suede boots were pretty fabulous.

The restaurant features authentic food, and the design style is consistent throughout.


Tip of the day: Take a few elements that make your experience unique and carry them throughout. Attention to detail creates an overall impression of quality—making for memorable experiences worth repeating.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Route 66: A series of Invitations

Albuquerque, NM: The hand-addressed invitation to a black-tie party sets up different expectations than a Day-Glo flyer stuffed in your mailbox. It’s more personal, was done with more care, and is on nicer paper—combining to make a stronger statement of quality. Similarly, the way you invite customers to your site is the first important step in providing a seamless, stellar customer experience. Some organizations and businesses operate on the assumption that, “if we build it, they will come.” But attendance is not magic, and customers need to be wooed. The first step is creating your Invitation.

The art deco facade of this building is lovely, but do I have any idea of what's inside? No.

This facade clearly tells you what to expect: kitschy souvenirs with a nostalgic feel.

Another beautiful facade, but the street-side windows aren't doing their job of inviting people in.

Looking just like a movie location, the Silver Moon Lodge evokes road trips on the venerable Route 66. I know just what to expect inside. (I may choose not to stay there, but the experience looks consistent, which is important.)

Look for the fiberglass octopus, just beyond the street sign. He's holding soaps and brushes in his many arms, a fun icon/advance organizer of the car wash experience.

Tip of the day: Your business needs to speak to people, from half a block away, about what's inside for them. Walk away from your entrance and try to imagine you've never seen it before. Is it welcoming? Is it clear what you offer inside?

This is an excerpt from Creating Great Visitor Experiences: A Handbook for Museums, Parks, Zoos, Gardens, and Libraries to be published next spring by Left Coast Press.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stunning showcase for Southwestern artists

I visited the Albuquerque Museum in November, mainly because it was across the street from the National Atomic Museum, which I posted about last week.

Albuquerque Museum of Art & History.

The building is a little blank from the walking entry, but the beautiful materials blend in well with the desert landscape.

An amazing sculpture garden, including this piece out front, welcomed you in.

The entrance to the new wing, bright and airy, told me I was going to have a special experience.

This was as far as I could take photographs, so I can't show you more. Their Web site doesn't come close to showcasing the experience this museum offers. I was lucky enough to catch the Biennial Southwest Show. Incredible, inspiring art—beautifully displayed—kept my interest long after I would have expected. The Web site describing this amazing show, one of the best I've seen, is long paragraphs of text, long lists of artists' names, and only two, very poor, images of any art. While there are issues with placing artists' work on the Web, work out ways to offer images, like very small files embedded with watermarks, to fully express your visual experience.

Tip of the day: Your Web experience should preview your real experience, as many customers use the Web to decide where to go. Don't be afraid that if you show too much, people won't bother to come in person. The opposite is true. Your Web site should give a clear idea of how large your facility is, what it looks like, and what there is to do. For more information on good Web experiences, visit Interface Guru.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Vending machines go upscale. Way, way upscale

In case you haven't seen one of these yet, here is the latest in vending. A company called Zoom Systems has developed these high-tech machines, which sell products like iPods and even ProActiv skin treatments. ProActiv is normally sold through infomercials starring celebrities like Jessica Simpson, Vanessa Williams, and Sean Combs (add current nickname here.)

The machine has a video monitor playing the infomercial integrated into the upper left corner (not visible in this photo).

Just swipe your card and your product is retrieved by a robotic arm, according to the article in the most recent issue of MacAddict.

The ProActiv machine is also chilled, which supports the brand's image of freshness and high-quality. Shatterproof glass and video surveillance (not visible) keep would-be thieves at bay.

So smart, because at a mall, or an airport, your tendency to spend is already loosened. And it's so easy...

Tip of the day: New technologies are changing the customer experience every day. Keep up with trends and think about how they can positively impact your business.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Ice cream shop serves old-fashioned charm

SAN DIEGO, CA: there's a cute little areain San Diego called South Park. I'll talk more in a future post about how South Park is creating themselves as a destination. Today I'll introduce you to a new business, the Daily Scoop on Juniper.

Logo has an evocative feel, suggesting a triple-scoop sundae.

The simple chalkboard allows for quick revisions.

Fun, seasonal specials.

The shop is super family friendly, with this magical tree...

And a large play area in the back of the store.

Tip of the day: Hone in on your audience. If you are creating a nostalgic destination business like this one, create family-friendly areas to encourage repeat visits.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Creating a "district" through wayfinding signs

Albuquerque, NM: Near the University of New Mexico campus is this small area of cute houses and shops called the Bricklight District.

A distinctive logo and consistent signage links the area.

Each of these businesses now has an additional brand/value by being part of the district.

One of the businesses in the Bricklight District.

Tip of the day: You can create interest and traffic for your business by organizing with others in your area to become a destination.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Table top advertising, or is it?

At a mall here in San Diego I've noticed some new advertising by a non-profit HMO called Kaiser Permanente. They have a great television campaign called "Thrive." The commercials feature all sorts of health-related behaviors that Kaiser believes in (narrated by one of my favorite actresses, Allison Janney).

Here at the food court, new tables featured this same campaign, with colorful fruits and vegetables creating attractive images to eat on.

"We have faith in optimism, in laughter as medicine, as well as penicillin."

"We believe in the treadmill and its siblings, Stairmaster and the elliptical."
"We believe that fruit makes a wonderful dessert."

While I'm not always a fan of advertising showing up in places it's not previously invaded, these beautiful images with cheery upbeat messages worked for me. And, clearly, they allowed the mall to upgrade their food court tables and chairs.

Tip of the day: Consider how you can partner with other organizations to provide services or furnishings you might not otherwise be able to afford.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

The National Atomic Museum: Great example of merchandise integration

Near Albuquerque's Old Town is the National Atomic Museum. It used to be at Los Alamos, but had to be moved after 9/11. It's a peculiar celebration of the power of destruction and the people who harnessed the atom.

It does, however, have one of the best museum stores I have ever seen.

A rocket in the parking lot is an unmistakeable icon, for better or for worse.

The Up N Atom Museum Store.

Collector's items, antique Geiger counters, Albert Einstein action figures... if you can think of it, they have it.

One of the richest, deepest book collections I've seen, both celebrating and decrying nukes.

Displays like this were integrated throughout the museum exhibits. Smart, without feeling pushy.

Tip of the day: An inspired store buyer can raise the level of your experience. Choose someone truly creative for this key role, and integrate your store merchandise with your educational message.

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