This free article by Derek Stockley uses a real life customer service example to demonstrate the importance of sightlines in every customer service organisation. Navigation and visibility can be overlooked if you do not pay close attention.
Can your customers find you easily?
I had to pick up some specialist medical equipment for an elderly relative recently.
I had spoken to the customer service staff on the telephone about the location and had received some good advice about how to get there. Everything went smoothly until I arrived at the industrial complex (factory) for the pick up.
Firstly, and unexpectedly, I encountered a security gate with an intercom. I had to get out of the car to speak. After I stated who I was and why I was there, without comment, the big industrial security gate rumbled open .
I drove in, quickly looked at the signs and drove to a big door that said loading zone for the the type of equipment I was collecting. I parked the car. Unsure of what to do next, I walked 100 meters or so to the office marked 'Reception'. There I was told "you need the XXXX division. It is the next building".
I went back to my car and drove to the next building.
Was I stupid I asked myself?
After successfully collecting the equipment, I checked the signs on the way out.
No, I was not stupid. On the information given to me, my course of action was perfectly reasonable.
What can we learn from this experience?
- Accurate, brief but comprehensive signage for customers and visitors is essential.
- Look at your signage from the customer viewpoint. Do you have different groups to target? (In this case, 'retail' and 'industrial' customers.)
- Forewarn customers, in this case I could have been told on the phone or the intercom: "After you announce your arrival, drive in and take the first left - our building is clearly marked with an 'XXXX' sign".
Overall, my dealings with this company were very good, but this one aspect let them down.
The jargon for this subject, in merchandising terms, is "sightlines" - it is what your customers see when they enter your premises.
The signs, layout and design should enable customers to assess where they are and how to get to what they want quickly. Preferably, this process should take a couple of seconds. For example, you walk into a store with the intention of buying a television. It should be immediately obvious as to where the televisions are. But what about a toaster? The store layout and design, along with good signage, should also make it obvious as to where to find the toasters.
Good sightlines apply to any business, not just stores. It is not just the physical layout - the same concept applies to all processes that customers experience. For example, the same should apply to visitors to a website. Wherever they 'land', they should be able to quickly navigate to the web page they need. Web visitors will quickly leave if they cannot see a path. You have one or two seconds to get the attention of most web visitors.
Sightlines are important in store merchandising. They are also important in every business location and business process. The same principles even apply to websites.
Sign post clearly the way your customers should head. Help them to find what they want. Look at all your processes from the customers viewpoint rather than from your business viewpoint.
Have you had a good or bad 'sightline' experience recently?
How did you feel?
Should this issue be discussed at your next team and/or management meeting?
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Derek Stockley conducts public training courses in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, as well as in-house training programs. Derek conducts a wide range of customer service training programs.
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