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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Form follows function, even for experiences.

The service environment plays a lot of roles, giving tangible cues about the experience about to occur. In the most effective environments, the servicescape facilitates the experience itself, contributing to successful service outcomes.

I was at my semi-frequent local sandwich stop to pick up some lunch on the go. They make great sandwiches, and as part of the experience, have given them pithy names based on geographic origin.

A large menu board and several smaller signs provided the name of each sandwich and identified the ingredients in them. But they recently changed the signage, leaving the sandwich names but removing the ingredient listings.

It’s a bad idea, unless your products are universally known to the market you serve.

We’ve all developed enough familiarity with the Big Mac that you seldom hear someone standing at the McDonald’s counter ask what’s in one. But until you’ve sold a billion of them, list the ingredients.

Worse than just a marketing problem, in a service environment, lack of product awareness adversely affects the interaction.

Before the removal of the descriptions, I could order my sandwich, have the order taken, prepared, pay for it and be on my way.

Now in the same interaction, I ask the server the ingredients because I can’t remember whether a “Siciliano” or a “Toscano” should rightfully have pepperoncinis. The server spends extra time explaining the sandwiches, and gets visibly frustrated with the added step to the process, a product explanation that she seldom had to conduct when the signage did the work for her.

Marketers fall in love with their products, want them have a recognizable name. More important than universal recognition is to use names to facilitate the service experience, describe to customers what they should expect, how it should work and how they should feel using it.

Likewise, the signage and other environmental aspects should be looked at not only for what they add to the ambiance, but more importantly how they can be used to facilitate the service encounter and make it operate more smoothly, remove steps, or improve quality.

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