There was a time I was a huge proponent of signage. Too often I watched as customers grew frustrated in an attempt to get around and find what they needed. After my conversation with Rebecca Montano-Smith a former librarian, I saw signage in a new way.
Here are excerpts from our conversation:
“We were renovating an older building as a brand-new library branch and it was going to be a much bigger building. Because of that we were considering signage for all the different places. As we were trying to decide what to do, we ran out of money. We decided to skip signage and the idea was that, oh, well, we'll be able to add that in at some point in the near future. We'll figure it out as we go.
We decided to look at desire lines, which is when people will wear a path in the in the grass to get to where they are going instead of following whatever paths that have been laid down because it's faster or simpler. So we figured we'd see a little bit of that. And then we could decide where to put signs at that point.
We're coming up on four years that branch has been open and they still don't have any signs and in all honesty, when I think about it, it is not that bad.
What it forced us to do was pay a lot more attention to people coming in. It forced us to be in eyeline sight of the entry doors. There are two sets of entry doors, on opposite sides of the building. And it meant that we knew that we had to a stick around and be much more aware of people coming in and looking around and looking for help. And, sometimes, that was a drag, because it meant that you couldn't just leave and expect people to help themselves.
But it also meant that we were forced to be present, that we were forced to not lose ourselves in busy work and tasks and turn our back, our literal backs to the doors on people, that we stayed engaged. And like I said, sometimes it’s a chore but in the end, I think our customer service was much better than other places in town.
We knew that we had to pay attention to people's body language when they came in. They would stop right after the entryway look around, trying to orient themselves. And then we would say, “Hey, good morning. How's it going, what can we help you find?” That was our chance to engage with those people, and explain about the how the building worked and whatever else we had going on. We had moved to self-checkout, a few years before that, and a lot of staff and customers missed that prosaic checkout time to talk to somebody.
Having to explain to people how everything works and where everything was, was a chance to explain all kinds of things, because oftentimes people would come in, and say, “Oh, I need the so and so”. Then you talk to them and discover, no, actually, they need something else. But if they had just gone to where the sign pointed, they wouldn't have gotten what they needed so. And customers will often leave if they can’t find what they want right away. As much as we wished we’d had signage, in the end, it did not turn out to be a bad thing at all."
If you want to have better service here are three questions to ask yourself:
Is this sign really needed?
Do our customers rely on our signs?
Are the signs keeping us from connecting to our customers?
Whether you have signs or not, make sure you are watching for confusion and connect and help your customers so you can provide exceptional service.