Saturday, March 15, 2008

Service Efficienista

I've been buying my coffee at Starbucks for 15 years. I think that outs me as a fan of the company. Yesterday I strolled into Starbucks at Astor Place and was greeted by a member of the staff wearing a "Janet Jackson Mic". He asked for my order. I was bothered by the experience, because instead of looking at the face of the person greeting me, I stared at his microphone and wondered who he was talking to when he dispatched my caffein craving. I couldn't see his collegue at the receiving end. Instead of talking to me, his attention was with somebody "out there". Headphones indicate privacy, because we usually listen to something like music or a phone conversation.

The experience became technical and distancing, rather then personal. Since I associate Starbucks with hours of hanging out over a cup of coffee (and maybe a refill..). I wonder if other customers felt rushed as well. And what happens if you don't know which coffee drink you're in the mood for today?

A few years ago I helped creating the technical service scenario at the Prada Epicenter Store on Prince and Broadway in New York. My Job was building the user interface for the store's "staff device", a hand held computer that could do everything from reading RFID tags to pulling up stock information and customer history. In my opinion it was a gigantic flop, because nobody researched the experience of what it would actually feel like to use the device in a customer/sales rep relationship. I walked into the store many times over the years and talked to the people working there about the staff device. I watched them and not once did I see an employee using one.

We have to be very careful when adding technology to a sales scenario. The experience can be off-putting - at least to the customer.


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