12.1.07

Visual Guides for Tube Tourists


Two posts today, though I’m separating them so that their headers stand out as separate articles … gotta think SEO …

First is a bit of a cop out. A guy at The Company writes an intranet blog with a central tenet of inspiring great customer service. He’s a bit braver than I, often approaching people in restaurants, shops and the street to interrogate them when they’ve been part of a great customer experience or solution to one of life’s problems. His eyes are always open and recently he took a trip on the London Underground (a subject I’ve mentioned in the past in relation to navigation analogies). I’ll let him take up the story (used by permission):

“…On the tube and got off at Westminster. Now I was off to meet a Customer Experience 'guru' and I had the address but as I was coming up the escalator I was thinking, 'I wonder what exit to take?'. Now, most tube stations with multiple exits have text based signs pointing to each exit. I was surprised and delighted to see the [picture left]:

You see, many tourists won't be able to read the text signs and even Brits like me can often navigate far better through pictures of “what I want to see when I surface” (when I don't know street names).

So, I asked one of the staff, 'Who thought of that, it's bloody brilliant'. And the answer, 'we had a quick team pow wow and the boss asked for ideas to make things better for customers, Trevor came up with that, was given a digital camera and went out on his lunch and took the pictures'. He then said, 'and the best thing is customers seem to like it, and us staff don't lose anywhere near as much time trying to explain directions to people who are a bit confused'. I am not embarrassed to say that I gave him a hug. He looked somewhat alarmed. I asked for Trevor but it wasn't his shift so I wrote a note of thanks and congratulations (ironically on a complaint form as it was all that could be found).

So, anyhow, be a 'Trevor' today. Look at things from your customers eyes - have a pow wow and just do it!”


Cool huh? Ironically the London Tube map was actually designed by Harry Beck in the expectation that users didn’t need it to accurately reflect geography and scale as being under ground meant there were no landmark reference points. Many stations, along with highlighting the colour and having a unique design scheme (e.g. tiling at Tottenham Court Road) feature imagery of nearby attractions in their decoration however it is when exiting the tube that features such as photographs of what’s available at each exit are crucial.

But even more, the point of this piece is to illustrate how great ideas only take a little prompting and really loads of people ‘think customer’ regularly. This idea might have arisen with a staff suggestion box scheme but I reckon it probably would not. Trevor wouldn’t have got round to it, he’d have had second thoughts – thinking it was frivolous. However, a quick pow-wow and boom! Idea’s out there, acted upon and getting men in suits all excited at the same time as expediting the passage of tourists around the World’s greatest capital.

Epilogue: Can anyone else think of any Tube stops that feature imagery of tourist attractions that are in close proximity to the station. For example, somewhere in the tile mosaic, wall designs or in the exit/ticket hall? The
most obvious ones are Bank, St. Pauls (before rennovation), Baker St. and, to some extent, Victoria...

1 comment:

smorgasbord-design said...

This post has been picked up and referenced on 'The Perfect Customer Experience', thanks! TPC is well worth a read if customer experience stories are your thing.