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To Create Loyal Customers, go OCD over the UI and UX

This is not an article about the design of gadgets or computer peripherals. It is, instead, all about the forgotten items that all of us interact with on a daily basis.

Most importantly, it is aimed at brick-and-mortar business leaders and managers, and the gestation was a 10-foot tall ladder in a drive-through lane.

Chutes & Ladders & Kiosks

The fast food joint where I get my somewhat daily fix of breakfast sausage expanded their drive-through to two lanes a while back—two order stations funneling into one pay/pickup lane with (usually) separate windows for each. At the same time, the owners installed video displays in the car-side intercom kiosks, designed to display the customer’s order in real-time. When the displays are working, and the clerk is proficient, this is an amazingly enjoyable way to order food, for there is little doubt about whether your voiced order has been recorded accurately.

Yet my recent experiences show that this store’s owners don’t have the level of OCD needed to consistently ensure good customer service. You heard me—some level of OCD is desirable for success. It can always be followed to excess, yet if it is moderated and properly focused (as well as explained and guided with a gentle touch), it can have profound effects on business success. This is why Apple designers obsess over even corners of their creations.

This worked very well for several months, until one of the two kiosk displays failed. My reaction was simple; I simply avoided the lane with the dark display.

Then someone started blocking off one of the two lanes with a ladder when traffic was light enough to only warrant one lane being operational. And consistently, the ladder was placed in the only lane with a working display.

I am quite sure there was a very logical operational reason for this that made sense to management and employees. However, the effect was to degrade customer service, and since that is how this company makes money, those decisions, in reality, were incorrect.

Once these problems were fixed, I started noticing other defects—an ad on the order display for a burger that you can’t buy any longer, for instance. Or how I would order an item substituting the American cheese with cheddar, and upon delivering the order, the server would always say, “burger with no cheese, right?”, confusing me and forcing me to double-check my order.

What’s going on here? Very likely it’s this: The store’s training teaches order takers to push the button for “no cheese” whenever a substitution is requested. The result is that the order is reported as three separate lines: 1) burger, 2) no cheese), 3) sub cheddar, and the server (and sometimes the burger-maker) simply reads the first two lines.

How do you fix this? Simple: 1) Train order-takers to not push the “no cheese” button when a customer requests a substitution (the system has a “sub” button, and it works just fine), AND 2) reprogram the software to delete the “no cheese” line as soon as the order-taker presses the “substitute cheese” button.

I’m just guessing, but I rather suspect that this store is behind the curve of corporate expectations for revenue.

In business, it is all too easy to get mired down in the wrong details. The way to rise above this is to step out of your shoes and into a customer’s shoes for a bit, and then go OCD.

In this case, I’d advise the manager to go outside, take a picture of the menu boards (both lanes), and then spend the next couple of weeks ordering everything on the menu, from their car, alternating lanes. Keep a notebook in your pocket, and log everything that doesn’t happen perfectly.

When the list is complete, go find someone with the know-how to fix these problems. However, it can’t be just anyone, and should not be a geek! The fixes need to be designed and done by someone who can implicitly feel the pain and frustration of the customer, and who cares about that far more than operational or management issues. A psych major would be a good starting point.

This much attention to detail is the only way to design great customer experiences, period.

If you’re not enjoying and taking pride in the process, then you’re not quite doing it right. So stop, go talk to some customers (at a franchise where you’re not known!), and figure out what of their experience you haven’t quite comprehended yet.

Now go try a similar test again. When you start to smile when you’re doing this tedious research, because you’re figuring out simple or clever ways to make the customer happy, you are doing the exercise right.

Posted in Service, Uncategorized.


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