Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bathroom Blogfest 2007: Thoughtful bathrooms

Welcome back to day three of the Bathroom Blogfest.

Happy Halloween!

Today I'm sharing some great features I've seen on my travels this last year. This cool sink at O'Hare Airport in Chicago provides easy access for people using wheelchairs while looking (and being) designed in. Would that all universal design was so seamless.

At the Carlsbad Outlet Mall, several features caught my eye. In every stall, they've designed a place (off the floor) to hold your shopping bags. Smart!

They also explain that the restroom has environmentally friendly features.

And provide a family restroom for privacy (especially nice for parents bringing kids of the opposite gender to the restroom).

The Oakland Museum of California offers nursing mothers a comfy couch out of the way.

And the North County Ob/Gyn office offers free feminine products, among other thoughtful features.

Tip of the day: How can you make your restroom more customer friendly? While it's great to design in these features when you build or remodel, you can also add nice touches that show you care.

Visit the group blog, and the other bloggers:
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bathroom Blogfest: Stall of shame

Yesterday I featured some great bathrooms at American Girl Place. Today we're going to look at some less successful examples. The first is nothing new, a line for the ladies room at a touristy area in San Diego. Even on a quiet day, the facilities aren't adequate for women. This venue has been around for 27 years. Why haven't they upgraded their restrooms?

Next up is a restroom at a local grocery store, used by staff and the public. Surely they could put in a decorative screen to give all of us something nice to look at?

This dark museum bathroom is now scheduled for an upgrade. In the meantime, how about adding some artwork to the walls to brighten it up?

Note to designers and hardware companies: Don't sell hooks like this. They are useless! Everything just slides right off.

Tip of the day: Before you open your business today or tomorrow, go into the men's and ladies' rooms. Are they up to par? How can you upgrade them a little this week? If they need deep cleaning or remodeling, can you put that into your schedule?

For more Bathroom Blogfest, visit the group blog, and the other bloggers:
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Monday, October 29, 2007

Bathroom Blogfest visits American Girl Place

It's Day Two of the 2007 Bathroom Blogfest and we're at American Girl Place in Chicago. This amazing retail experience, three floors' worth, is all about girls and their mothers. So it might not be a surprise that on this floor, there isn't a men's room at all, just two ladies'. (I asked if there were any men's rooms; there is just one in the building.) This double bathroom is opposite the theater where the live musicals are held.

Each bathroom is beautifully themed to the floor's decor. This is the bathroom on the theater floor.

This fun bathroom echoes the cafe's color scheme.

This one is near the "babies" section, where girls can choose a baby doll complete with furniture, tiny baby clothes, and other accessories.

It's this kind of attention to detail that makes this venue so remarkable. According to this blog that follows American Girl, they even have doll holders in each stall!

Here is a picture of my daughter's doll, Stacy, on the hooks. Notice how they have positioned the hooks at exactly the right height to make the dolls' feet rest on the TP holder?
Thanks to reader Brooke for sending in this great photo; see the rest of her comment below!

It would have been less expensive to have all the bathrooms be the same. Instead, each is memorable and extends the unique experience of that floor.

For more on the bathroom blogfest, visit our group blog, and the other bloggers:
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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bathroom Blogfest starts today!

In honor of companies and institutions who care about their customers by providing great bathrooms, we're featuring the best (and worst) bathrooms from a customer experience perspective. This Blogfest began last year with nine bloggers participating. This year we have 22 bloggers from around the globe.

I'll be posting all week, and encourage you to drop by the other blogs to read their perspectives. We have researchers, retail, branding, and marketing specialists, designers, journalists, and librarians all writing about the ladies room experience. Women will be posting from India, London, Toronto, and across the U.S.

In our country, we take good facilities for granted. But in other countries, public sanitation is still an evolving experience. In Kiev, Ukraine, the world's first toilet museum caught a visitor "using" one of the exhibits.

How about this porcelain palace in Chongqing, China, offering more than 1,000 fanciful public toilets and urinals?

This toilet-shaped house in Korea was built to showcase the work of the World Toilet Association. Their mission is no joke: to improve sanitation in under-developed countries. They sponsor the World Toilet Summit, being held in New Delhi this week, from October 31 to November 3. For more blogs on toilet facilities around the globe, visit the L.A. Times travel blog.

Tomorrow we'll start our American tour with a visit to the bathrooms at American Girl Place in Chicago.

Visit the group blog, and the other bloggers:
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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Communicating via... pretzel?

I enjoy humor, especially when a corporation uses it well to set a particular tone, like Geek Squad, Rockfish Restaurants, Woot, and Everybody's Nuts.

Passengers on AirTran Airways (a low-cost airline that offers business class) are treated to these pretzels, which are labeled:
How to eat gourmet pretzels on a low-fare airline.
(See back for complete details.)

Eating instructions:
  1. Think about our wonderful low fares at as you open packet.
  2. Place a pretzel in mouth. With each crunch, be reminded of our low fares.
  3. As you swallow, remember again just how low the fares are.
  4. Repeat until pretzel packet is empty.
  5. Keep empty packet to remind yourself to book at for our lowest fares and no booking fees.

I was expecting their website to be more fun and continue this tone, but I give them credit for taking advantage of something as small as a pretzel packet to make an impact.

Tip of the day: Where can you place messages to make an impact? How can you make a "throwaway" worthy of being saved?

Thanks to readers JJP in Iowa for sending this in.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wildfires in San Diego

I normally blog on Tuesdays, and was trying to decide whether to post today. A friend of mine included this comment in her email today:

From a "customer service" perspective, though, it looks as if the many agencies in charge have learned a lot from the wildfires [4 years ago] and the mistakes of Katrina. Maybe we truly are America's Finest City...

I agree with her. Since the national news media is only going to tell you about the disasters, I will tell you about the wonderful ways people are stepping up.

Somehow, at this writing (3:38 pm on Tuesday), 513,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. In a completely orderly fashion. No crazy traffic jams, no looting, just calmly going where they are
told and staying put. Amazing.

The city, county, state, and military are working beautifully together. A huge center has been set up at Qualcomm Stadium, hosting over 10,000 people last night. Here is the video from

By the end of the day yesterday they had a "store" set up with everything people needed; they just stop by and pick it out. They had a pet center staffed with volunteer vet techs and piles of donated food, as well as a medical area for people with health problems.

The Del Mar Fairgrounds took in 1,800 horses and 2,000 people. Another area was set up for livestock on Fiesta Island in Mission Bay.

Signonsandiego (the online home of the San Diego Union-Tribune) has several fire blogs going. This one includes nice things that people are doing for each other. 600-700 volunteers showed up at the stadium to help out, and were organized and set onto tasks by the agency overseeing the stadium.

The Alpha Project, a social services agency in San Diego, served their customers—homeless people—by handing out masks (air quality is bad), food, and water downtown.

The Manchester Grand Hyatt has dropped their room prices from $289 to $139/night and is also allowing people to bring their pets (normally, they don't allow pets). They also donated 700 meals to the stadium. They had 700 evacuees there last night and are open to 1000 for the next three nights.

Every single TV channel is doing a wonderful job of covering the situation in a calm, organized, non-sensationalist manner. They have good maps they update regularly, and let people know what's happening with a "we're all in this together" feeling. Many of them have been on the air or out in the field for the last two days. It's striking when you compare it to the national coverage, which always goes for the sound bite while interviewing the plucky couple who have lost everything but their sense of humor.

Last but not least, the firefighters, police, emergency crews, and city workers, who are out there valiantly fighting these fires and trying to save homes in 90-100 degree heat and 50-60 mile per hour winds. We appreciate it! Stay safe.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Blog Action Day: A belated post

Monday October 15 was Blog Action Day, where bloggers from around the globe wrote about a single topic: the environment. More than 20,000 bloggers responded.

Visit their home page to learn more.

Last year I wrote about the experience at my massage therapist's, Derith Mason. At that time, Derith was giving out bottled water to clients after their massage. Then Derith read an article about the negative impact of bottled water on the environment. This article from Fast Company magazine is comprehensive, and you'll never look at a bottle of water the same way again. Derith still wanted to offer her clients water, but didn't want to add more bottles to landfills.

So, she visited The Adcentive Group to search for a better alternative.

She had these bottles made up, and now gives them to her clients instead of throwaway bottles. They are polycarbonate, so are safe from off-gassing, and can be washed and reused indefinitely. They are high-quality, with her logo on it, and have some other great features. The wide mouth allows you to include ice. The loop means the bottle can be clipped on to a bag or belt. (Mine has gone through airport security numerous times. I refill it once I'm through.) The flip top keeps the spout clean, and the pull-spout doesn't leak.

She teamed up with another business, Artistic Florals, to have the bottles made, thus reducing her cost.

Not only do I think of her whenever I use this, but I'm a walking advertisement for her. Her clients take them on trips and send her photos of the bottles from exotic locales. You can find Derith at The Healing Point in San Diego.

Tip of the day: Even small businesses can go green. What is one thing you could change about your business today—that would help the environment—while still supporting a great customer experience?

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Cuban restaurant in Oakland serves up authenticity

On a recent trip to Oakland, California I had the pleasure of eating at La Taza de Cafe.

On a Sunday for brunch, the bar and dance floor beyond were bright and lovely.

Great colors, tile work, and fixtures all set the mood.

A Cuban version of eggs benedict (served over gluten-free corn cakes) plus a side of fried plantains made my heart sing.

Great service, and on the way out, Thanks and come again, en Espanol, of course.

According to Joe Pine, co-author of the new book, Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, this restaurant hits all the right notes. It's run by Cuban people, and serves food you can't find at other restaurants. The decor, colors, tile work, and music all fit the theme beautifully. It feels genuine, and I'm sure it's packed on a weekend night when they have live music and dancing. Listen to my interview with Joe on the right sidebar, and subscribe to my free podcast series here.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Bathroom Blogfest is shaping up for 2007!

Last year, a small group of female bloggers took on the challenge of bathrooms and their role in the customer experience. We had so much fun that we decided to repeat it this year and invited more women to take part. We currently have 22 bloggers signed up to participate, including the blogger for the National Kitchen and Bath Association (Ed Pell).

The online event will run from October 28 to November 2. We're creating our own little website which will list all the blogs and pick up all the feeds from relevant posts.

If you'd like to nominate a favorite (or least favorite) bathroom, please send me an email with a couple of pictures and I'll include them in my blog posts that week. I'll choose one entry to receive a free copy of my book (for you or your favorite institution or company), Creating Great Visitor Experiences: A Guide for Museums, Parks, Zoos, Gardens, and Libraries.

Here are the bloggers taking part, as of this writing:
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Friday, October 05, 2007

Surprise! Kudos to the U.S. Passport Office

We recently needed to renew an expired passport. We printed out the form and sent everything in, having heard that it was taking months for them to be processed.

Shortly thereafter, we received this in the mail:

What works about this piece?
  1. Acknowledgment of receipt: We know they are working on it.
  2. Shifts some control to us: We are told how to go online to monitor our progress.
  3. Allows for our needs: If we are only traveling to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean, we can download something to allow our travel if the passport doesn't arrive in time.
  4. Tells how to reach them: Gives us a way to get in touch.
It turned out that our passport actually arrived before this piece did, which they also get points for (exceeding our expectations). With all the negative press the Passport Office has recently gotten for the long wait times, I commend them for taking steps to keep their customers informed.

Tip of the day: How can you make sure that you are letting customers know that you are working on something for them? Give them tools to feel in control? Acknowledge their needs? Give them ways to reach you?

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