Sunday, June 12, 2011

Just follow the signs...

Sunday night, and I am in Seattle (ok, technically at the moment, Tacoma). Tonight's travel experience reminded me yet again of the importance of signs. Not just having them, and placing them in places where customers will hopefully see them, but thinking like a customer, putting yourself in the mindset of someone who needs to actually use the signs to navigate. It sounds so easy right?

The flight from San Diego was easy and uneventful. We landed in Seattle at the farthest gate from the exit of course, but no issues. First stop, restroom. Easy, it was clearly marked. Next stop, rental car.

Intuitively I knew it must be out near Baggage Claim, though no signs for rental cars appeared as we exited the secured zone. Our leap of faith paid off and we found the parkade with the rental cars and a moving marquee sign that listed a number of car companies as being on the 1st floor (there were 4 floors in the rental parkade). National was one of them, and we had a reservation with them for an SUV so we could travel the many miles up and down the I-5, and all the connecting highways in the submarkets we would spend the next two days exploring.

At this point, my travel companion Jane said to me, " that was smooth and easy". She and I have had too many trips together where we have gotten lost getting out of the airport, mostly in Houston. One year we were there on business more than 10 times, and got lost every time. It's a city where highways have multiple choice names, and directions.

I digress. Tonight we are in Seattle, on the 1st floor of the rental car parkade, following the sign that says, "National, Row P". There is one SUV left, and as we were loading our bags into it, a woman who works for National walked over to confirm we had an SUV reservation. We did, with the "Emerald" (read: VIP) version of National.... which is one floor up on the 2nd floor. Lacking emotion and energy Jane tried to explain there was no sign indicating that. The woman in green started to argue, and soon thought better of it, but maintained that yes, there was a sign, in the elevator.

That would mean you would need to know to get into the elevator. Nowhere among the signage we followed to get us this far did we see special mention that Emerald was on the 2nd floor.

As we schlepped our bags back through the parkade, re-tracing the signage we had followed, and arriving at the elevator, the 2nd floor wasn't even on the list of options. Another leap of faith, we get into the elevator and there in 12pt type is National, and then in 8pt type beneath it, "Emerald - 2nd floor".

Yes, there was a sign. But not along our path of travel which meant it was useless to us in our wayfinding effort. Think about all the paths of travel your customers take. Think about their frame of mind, and other things they are thinking about when trying to navigate their way through your business.

Jane and I found our SUV, loaded our bags once again and headed out for the 1-5 south. Thankfully, there is only one road out of the rental car parkade and the directions all along the way were clear and easy. We found our way to the hotel without one wrong turn. We just followed the signs...

1 comment:

  1. You write in such a way that it places me there with you, in both your frustration at trying to find what you needed through poor direction (can't really imagine you both being that calm, but I digress...), and at your relief at finding your final destination with apparent ease. Thanks I enjoyed this.