“Transparency” is used in business today to mean clarity, openness and accountability between you and your customers (and shareholders, if you are so blessed). But remember back with me, to transparency of the… transparent type, and discover how it could maximize your Customer Experience….

Sitting in my favorite bagel shop north of Wilmington, Delaware today, thinking of a conversation I had with my Dad a few weeks ago when we were here. Einstein’s redesigned the store last year, and he had not been here since then, so he was looking at it with fresh eyes.

From building anticipation…

The store used to have a deli-style preparation area, glassed in so you could stand in line and watch your meal being made, as you moved toward the cashier. For newbies or the indecisive it also made considering your choices easier, as all their fresh ingredients were right within view.

In the redesign, they put up a half-wall and tried to redirect the flow of customer traffic directly to the cashier, more like a McDonald’s—i.e., order and pay first, then wait, instead of food prep first and then pay.

I say tried to redirect because it’s never quite caught on with customers, and there is frequently a confused mass of people all over the place, blobbing toward the cashier, unsure of how to form a line.

To building resentment.

Surely there was a rationale behind this, but I’ve never known what it was. I asked store management at the time how they felt about it. They hated it, felt it cut them off from their customers and were sure it was slowing service, but hoped that it would smooth out and improve… whatever it was supposed to improve… in the near future.

The results:

The wait seems much longer, probably because there is nothing to do while you’re waiting, either before or after you order; even after six-plus months of smoothing out the process, in addition to seeming longer, the wait actually is longer.

The sense of community is reduced to near nothing: Customers can not see or interact with staff except the cashier, who is so hurried he or she is usually asking for the order of the person behind you while you are still putting your change into your wallet, making you feel as if you, the customer, are in their way. Being jostled in a cattle-line instead of walking side-by-side past delicious ingredients discourages discussion and encourages frustration with the guy in front of you and the guy squeezing in behind you. The cattle-line also creates the familiar and not too pleasant atmosphere of a fast food restaurant, which is exactly what most of this shop’s clientele come here to avoid.

The store is uglier, in spite of the upscale finish put on the blank wall.

The store feels smaller.

Although I am a loyal and trusting fan, even I sometimes wonder what they’re doing back there. Employees are encouraged to behave their best and take pride in their work when they know you can see everything. I have only anecdotal evidence, but errors seem to have gone up and food quality has gone down.

The tops of the employees’ heads look funny popping up above the wall.

Staff turnover appears to be near 100% since the redesign.

Lesson: Be transparent, the old-fashioned way. Don’t close your customers off, or box them in out.

How do you welcome guests to your place of business?

Does it feel like a welcome, for guests? Or are you herding cattle?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson