by Naomi Karten
Even being Boston-based, I've never (dare I admit it?) been to Fenway Park. I don't much follow baseball except during the World Series, and even then, only when the Red Sox are playing. I do know how to get to Fenway Park, though, unlike many visiting fans.
If you take public transportation to a game, you're likely to catch a train at Park Street station. But trains departing from this station split into multiple routes, so if you're a visitor, you might not be sure which train to take.
Fortunately, during baseball season, transit personnel thoughtfully post signs stating which trains go to Fenway Park. But how effective are these signs? Last time I was in this station, I located a transit fellow and asked him if, despite the signs, people still ask for directions.
"Yes," he told me, "a lot of people ask. People don't read the signs."
But looking around, I became convinced that some people ask not because they don't read the signs, but because they don't even notice the signs. You see, this station is a superb case study of information overload, a visual mangled jangle of input, a reader's delight.
|This station is a superb case study of information overload, a visual mangled jangle of input
Picture this. On the walls of the station are advertising posters. Down the center of the platform are freestanding structures with more posters. Large signs display subway maps. Tall racks hold bus schedules.
On the vertical beams along the platform are still more signs. Every other overhead horizontal beam displays travel information. And on the remaining beams, amazingly, are more ads.
Amid all this visual clutter are people. People to-ing and fro-ing. People racing to their train. People dashing on or off trains. People lugging briefcases and clutching packages and pushing carriages.
Commuters, knowing their way, can ignore this visual cacophony. But given this frenetic overload, how many visiting baseball fans might miss the Fenway Park signs? How many would even think to look for them? No wonder many people ask for directions. Fortunately, transit personnel graciously assist.
Of course, this is not a uniquely transportational situation. During a trip, I asked the cashier at a tiny store if the store took credit cards.
"Yes," he said, flashing a what-a-dumb-question look, "there are signs all over the store."
True. Clashingly bright posters, ads and displays were attached to every shelf, mounted on every wall, even suspended from the ceiling.
Supersize stores are even more confusing. So are many websites, monthly statements, and installation instructions. No wonder people need help finding their way.
In delivering your services, do you ever give your customers key information that's masked by clutter? In your service guides and procedures manuals, do you ever put critical caveats in a place they're likely to miss? Do you ever make it hard for customers to find what they need to know when they need to know it?
Before you claim that customers don't follow your written advice, find out if they even saw it. And if they repeatedly ask for information that you've already made available, find out why. It may be that you need to make the information easier to find and easier to read.
I don't know, maybe making the Fenway Park signs bigger or using a red background or adding baseball images would make them more visible.
But if you ever want to take me out to the ballgame, don't worry. I know how to get us there.
© 2007 Naomi Karten, www.nkarten.com
Naomi Karten - speaker, consultant and author - works with organizations that want to improve customer satisfaction
and with groups that want to work together more amicably.
She has have given seminars and presentations to more than
100,000 people around the world. She has published several important books on topics relating to communication skills and management and customer relations.
Note from Azriel: Naomi's online newsletter Perceptions and Realities is really outstanding. See for yourself!
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