Service in the Soap Stores

Having worked a variety of terrible jobs including bus boy for a ribs restaurant, mail sorter for an accounting firm, telemarketer, and dishwasher/delivery guy (yes, same position and I was in my middle twenties when I had this job…), I know how much it sucks to go to work sometimes.

That said, I still did my best to put on a fake smile and do my job.  This helped my experience at work and it helped the customer’s experiences as well.  People work better when they are happy, and happiness is most often rewarded with more happiness.  It’s far more difficult to be mean to someone who is smiling than someone who is frowning at you.

Service design deals with the experience of shopping at a brick-and-mortar.  Today, I had the experience of entering two upscale soap companies Laline and Sabon.  Both places look immaculate.  Laline is rustic.  It has wood flooring, white-washed walls, and cabinets, and the general idea is to bring to mind a boudoir.  Sabon, on the other hand, has a dark mahogany, natural motif.  The room is lit by track lighting and the highlight is a giant stone sink where you can try different soaps.

I wanted to buy one simple item: hand sanitizer.  I let my dog lick my hands a lot andI don’t want his doggy germs on my keyboard and mouse.

Both places look great, but I left Laline after a terrible experience because the woman who asked if I needed help (only after two rounds of walking by the register) was curt and looked like she wanted to be anywhere but at work.  The opposite was true of Sabon.  The people made me feel welcome, played with my dog (who probably enjoyed all the crazy smells from these places), and did as much as they could to help point me toward the right sanitizer.

The human factor here is the important aspect.

When working on websites the job of a user experience designer is to incorporate, as much as possible, the user.  Users are people.  It’s so easy to forget.  We think so much about the *way* people use things, but not nearly enough about the actual people.  If this were e-commerce I might have purchased from either place, but what if Laline had included quick access to customer service reps or somehow brought me closer to human contact?

Human contact is part of human nature.  We are social animals (so goes the refrain).  Shopping, however, is almost anti-social online.  Reconciling social behavior with e-commerce is incredibly important for the next phase of e-commerce.  Hopefully Laline employees treat patrons better and Sabon continues to do a good job.

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