I was in an airport this week and got lost trying to find a taxi. There were some initial signs pointing to the taxi area, but then they disappeared. So I ended up walking around the road in front of the airport for about 5 minutes — until I accidentally found the right spot. How many times has that happened to you — looking for a taxi or your baggage claim area or the right airline ticket counter? The real question is how many thousands (maybe millions?) of people does this happen to every year?!?
But these issues aren’t unique to airports. One of my research efforts is the evaluation of Web-to-store experiences. So we’ve been looking at retailers’ in-store experience. It’s striking to see how many retailers do a poor job helping customers find their way in a store. If you want to find something in a big store, often times you need to wander aimlessly and hope that you’ll eventually find the right area — whether it’s bedding or TVs.
What’s the solution?
This may not sound very sexy, but good signage can really make a difference for many customers. Here’s what I recommend:
- Directories at every entrance and near all elevators, stairs, and escalators. Our research has found many stores that don’t follow this practice. Make the directories very visible.
- Overhead signs at every decision point. As people wander through a store or an airport or a bank or any other area, they come to spots where they need to make decisions like going left or right or straight or up the stairs or down the stairs. At every one of these decision points, customer should be able to see signage that helps them make the right decision.
- Clear language. It’s not good enough for the signs to exist, they need to make sense to customers. We actually were in a department store that had overhead signs that pointed to “bedding,” “home goods,” and “domestic textiles.” We were looking for linens — but had no idea which area was correct (“domestic textiles”[whatever that is] turned out to be the right one).
- Good legibility. Make sure that customers can read the signs from wherever they need the information.
- Test it. We often do expert experience reviews where we attempt to accomplish tasks as-if we were customers. Another approach is to invite target customers to come to your store/terminal/branch/etc. and have them try to find some things. Walk with them and ask what they think. Any confusion is an issue. Don’t rationalize the issues — just fix them.
The bottom line: Help customers find their way — it’s a sign that you care.