My love affair with service aesthetics started when working with a large aerospace company trying to win a humongous government contract to build a new fighter plane for the armed services. We were helping them learn from their customers the good, bad and ugly about the customer experience they delivered. The company had done lots of customer intelligence gathering about the expectations of generals and admirals. They had learned a lot from the appropriations people on Capitol Hill. But, they had spent little time learning from the fighter flyer who would actually be piloting the new fighter jet.
In one focus group, we asked a group of Air Force fighter pilots what they hoped for in this new plane. They talked about their assumptions that the new plane would have the latest and coolest aeronautics. But, one pilot added…”but, we also need to look good in the cockpit!” Armed with a new nod to the aesthetics, not just the plane’s functionality, the company changed their design entry to also look great, not just fly great! They won the contract!
Aesthetics—how an experience looks, feels, smells, sounds, tastes—has grown in its importance to customers. A 3D television will blow a child’s mind in the living room until the child goes to Disney World and experiences 4D where the image of a ship at sea is coupled with a theatre seat they shakes, wind that blows, and water that comes from the ceiling. Walk into your local grocery store and notice the role of aesthetics surrounding products. In my supermarket there is the sound of thunder when the fresh vegetables or misted. There is always someone doing a cooking demonstration infusing a pleasant aroma that makes me hungry. Visit a Nordstrom, Bass ProShop, upscale hotel or Best Buy and pay attention to how your senses are stimulated!
Delta Airlines has turned their mindless and boring safety video into a fun-filled “Where’s Waldo” experience that no one on the flight ignores. Your favorite bakery probably pipes the smell of fresh cookies onto the sidewalk. And, you favorite realtor probably told you to bake an apple pie right before the open house to show off your house for sale.
Website aesthetics are also important. Today, a website is your brand…your billboard proclaiming the symbols and signs of who you are as a person and/or organization. Color matters. Purple is not only my favorite color since it communicates an elegance I would hope characterizes my work, it is also the dominate color of my favorite cartoon character—the Road Runner, a fun, agile and playful bird. Fonts, photos, and design shape the message in a way words and facts cannot.
Never forget that the artistry of every customer encounter can send strong signals to the brain of your customers that communicate your vision, priorities and distinction. We are hesitate to frequent restaurants with trash in the parking area. We get nervous about the safety of our funds when we experience tellers acting lax about branch security. And, if the nurse has untidy hands… Examine your customers’ experiences through the five senses. Remember: your customers are not unconcerned about the sense of service.