Or, How I wrecked one of my favorite shops and got paid to do it

Favorite spots become our favorites for many reasons.

When you’re an Experience Designer, you find yourself poking at those reasons all the time, looking for things to enhance, modify, and maximize for the client.

Yet sometimes, I just want to be a regular customer. I shut down the analytical brain the best I can and enjoy the shopping like it’s not an Experience, capital E.

(The way you do… you may come ‘round here and say “Wow, yes, everything’s an Experience!” but then for much of the day you just get on with things. Shame on you. But I digress.)

So it was one day in a favorite shop outside of Philadelphia. Milling about, money burning a hole in my pocket, time to kill before my next appointment, thoughts wandering everywhere…

Until I noticed a guy with a clipboard. Subtle, I thought. No one will notice him doing an audit.

I fingered the merchandise in front of me with a bit less interest. Experience Designer mode was kicking back in, darn it.

He wasn’t making any secret of his trip, chatting with salespeople as he checked the racks and tables, observing them interacting with customers, coming back around corners like Columbo wanting to ask the perp “just one more thing.”

Did I mention I like the place? I like the place. It is one of my favorites. Because salespeople leave me alone (though I know it’ll come as a shock to you, I’m rather a shy type), because it’s well-worn and never pristine, because they don’t try hard, and when I’m there I don’t look closely. They’re part of a major chain, but this seems to be the quirky, black-sheep brother who won’t do as he’s told. Sometimes I just like to be alone in a crowd, and that’s how being in this place is. I make allowances for their flaws, which are many, and they seem to make allowances for mine. Our “relationship” works.

Like I said, I come to this shop when I don’t want to be an Experience Designer. Ironically, that’s the Experience they’re offering.

Not this day.

Bloody clean, the place was. It even smelled pretty good. Smiling, friendly staff everywhere. On top of things. No racks half-put-away, no chatty staff in plain sight doing nothing, no bits of paper stuck on the rug, not a single customer ignored. I’d been accosted twice by the help before I spotted Mister Clipboard, and was so bewildered by their smiles that I’d almost turned around to leave. Now it made sense, and I began to take note of everything that was “wrong” with my favorite place. Suddenly I started to think about whether the other days were the days that were wrong, which of course I know is true, but darn it I don’t mind that they’re not maximizing their business. I want the place to stay grubby and quiet.

No I don’t, says Experience-Designer-Kelly. Mister Clipboard runs across the store manager, whom I know by sight. They mumble together for a moment. He must go help a customer, of course that’s his first priority! he says with a big show, but he’ll be right back to discuss the results.

I’m writing on the back of my business card at a (thankfully unattended) table at this point. As soon as he hops away, I walk up to the regional manager, leaning over another table finishing his notes. I set down my card, nod politely, and walk away.


The regional manager called me an hour later, and we got the job of doing work that would really help the company improve this underperforming store.

Moral(s) of the story for you:

1. You can’t see the forest for the trees. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try, I’m just saying it’s nothing like getting the Perspective of an outsider’s eye.

2. Warning staff that it’s audit day is danged counterproductive. Do you leave your house messy when your mother-in-law’s coming over? Thought not.

3. Every day should be treated like audit day, because you’ll never grow your business off customers like me who’re glad no one else likes shopping at the quirky black-sheep store.

Moral for me: There are no days off.   😉

First, the question you can’t answer: What’s your business like when you’re not looking?*

Take a look around the shops, offices, and even websites you visit this weekend with an outsider’s eye, and take mental notes. What’s taking away from Maximum Customer Experience at those places?

What clues might other people’s trouble spots give you about your own place of business, if you’re ready to face them squarely?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


*Email me: kellye (at) visionpoints (dot) net if you’d like to get started with your own audit or Experience Design Solution. I’ll tell you what it’s like when you’re not looking and exactly what to do about it, and if you’re ready to grow, we’ll create the solution just for you, too. I’d love to help you maximize your business!