Interiors

How Do We Win If We Don’t Know the Rules?

We all know the benefits of expansion in a recession. The implied success of expanding when everyone else is contracting can be a seductive draw to a potential client. If you’ve got it, flaunt it just a bit, right? Social proof—everybody wants to go with a winner, so act like one!

I’m listening…

I recently got a lesson in humility myself, from a disagreement with an entrepreneur-friend of mine. My friend was thinking of changing his floorplan and removing his conference room entirely, forcing everyone to meet with clients in their own offices. It’s not a fancy conference room, but it is a nice place to hold a meeting. Or I should say, it was.

“None of my business,” I said, making it my business, “but that seems like a bad move.”

“I’m listening,” he said.

My advice

“The conference room says ‘business’ to clients. It sets the mood. Makes them feel that you value them enough to treat them to that comfortable space. Makes them feel they’ve made a rock-solid choice with you.

“If you’d never had it, meeting in an office would be okay. But making the change? What can they think, but that you’re not doing well? Even the owner has to sit down in the middle of his workspace to talk to clients? That’s a strong reminder of the recession. For folks who are on the fence, it could be an excuse to think maybe we don’t need this guy at all.

“Your staff are going to see you differently, too. Your desk crammed into a corner to fit a conference table—all of a sudden you look like some junior nobody, not The Guy In Charge. Seems like a recipe for disrespect.”

The results

You’ve guessed that my friend had already made up his mind, and he did it his way. I can’t say whether his staff are treating him differently, but I can tell you about his clients.

Clients love it.

“It’s so intimate,” one told him.

“Feels just right for the times,” another said.

“I feel like I’m part of your work,” said another. “You are my work,” my friend responded warmly.

“Like talking in your living room,” is how my friend describes it. Conversations with clients have become easier, just at a time when we are all having more difficult conversations with our clients. He couldn’t be happier, and I couldn’t have been more wrong.

So if you haven’t heard it enough, I will humbly submit my takeaway to you: In these times, forget everything you know.

We are all undergoing a seismic shift, both as providers and as consumers. It’s too early to see how it will all shake out, but I am jazzed by watching the changes take place. Your customer may want something new, something unexpected, something that breaks all the rules.

Like a little humility.

How are the rules changing for you? Do you “know” what it takes to win today?

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Not sure how the health department feels…

So I’m in a local Burger King the other day. It’s three in the afternoon and the kid and I are starving. We get our food and we sit down to eat in the nearly empty store.

There’s another kid there, a little girl of about six. She’s dressed (so my nine-year-old tells me) like Hannah Montana, of whom I am blessedly ignorant. She seems to be alone. She’s got a Hannah Montana karaoke microphone, and she’s singing and dancing, watching herself in the mirrors that line the walls. Yes, in the Burger King. It’s an odd sight.

I realize after a few minutes, that there’s a cashier with a lot of interest in her. Keeps leaning out over the counter, peeking, then going back to whatever she needs to do. “That must be Mom,” I say to my little person.

This Hannah-ite continues dancing, and my kid leans in to me. “She’s not wearing any shoes,” she says. Nope. In fact, she’s been dancing barefoot the whole time, which escaped me in the general screwiness of being serenaded by this cutie while eating my chicken sandwich.

Mom comes out a few minutes later, asks about the shoes, and says “Thanks for being patient, sweetie, Daddy will be here to pick us up in just a few minutes, I’m going to get my things.”

Doesn’t tell her to put on the shoes.

I trust their clean.

Clean is a big factor in Maximum Customer Experience. Think of all the places you won’t go because you know you can’t stand how dirty they are. Think of the sigh of relief you get when a place you expect to be filthy (say, a mechanic’s shop that you’ve never been to before) turns out to be squeaky-clean and fresh smelling.

Would you let your kid walk barefoot where you work?

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

See-Through?

“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

A Monday Series

I took a long drive along the East Coast on Saturday, and noticed that a few flirtatious trees are turning color already, whispering that autumn is nearly here. Today, my kid goes back to school. If the summer heat still calls you as it does me, saying, where did all the time go? remember that some of those dog days were wisely used to:

Clear Out the Cobwebs

Smile for the Birdie

Have a New Logo Designed

Get My Kids Involved

Read at the Beach

Walk the Grounds

and Log In to the online Experience you offer your customers.

If you’re burnt-out, antsy, and need to revitalize your attitude as much as your business, this is the series for you. Experience Design for beach-dreaming business owners comes to your summer Mondays.

Summer Is a Great Time to Save With Quality Cheats Your Customers Won’t Mind

Time to get off the computer, and have a look around your place—if you’re a startup or an expanding small business owner, the sweetest music this summer is the sound of saving money on your interiors without putting a dent in your Customer Experience.

Here are my top 3 cheats—watch out, you’ll be tempted to spend too much!

1.  Lighting fixtures

Don’t get “cheap and ugly.” Get “industrial and minimalist,” and call it a design decision. Savings: 50% or more.

BUT… Have as much lighting as possible, especially natural lighting.

2.  Office furniture anywhere customers won’t meet with you

Tables, desks, and shelving are for using, not impressing, when you’re a startup business or small business owner. Go used. Go utilitarian.

BUT… Treat your staff to the best seating you can afford—even better than clients get—they’ve got to sit all day every day and love it.

3.  Storage

Here’s where you go cheap and ugly. Save money for where it shows!

BUT… If it bugs you, let your more creative staff members loose for an evening of faux painting the filing cabinets and kitchen cabinets.

Where Quality Counts: Skimp at Your Own Risk!

1.  Cleaning

Spotless is worth more than any other Customer Experience improvement, and with great lighting it will show even more.

2.  Anything customers will feel

The sense of touch is a large part of purchasing decisions.

3.  Seating

Though staff deserves the best, even in public areas this is often neglected. You need—more, sturdier, more comfortable, better looking. A fresh coat of paint or stain and a covering with fabric that’s from this millennium will do wonders for sturdy seats from days gone by.

4–28. More quality details you don’t want to miss.

 

What would you add? Where else can we cheat on quality without affecting Customer Experience?

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Hot Trends in Customer Experience

Colors, Themes, and Bandwagons to Jump On and Get Inspired By

Having railed recently against the don’ts of dated design concepts, I couldn’t leave you all hanging. Herewith, the ideas that are shaping business right now. With a pencil and your Moleskine, take this list and brainstorm: How does Project Runway relate to what you do? Can the unbelievable viral phenomenon of Free Rice or Webkinz take your business to the next level? What are hot librarians doing to revitalize a staid non-profit model—is it a Meatball Sundae or a real reinvention?

How can you make these trends timeless, and make them your own?

In no particular order:

Trust (Short-termism at Trust Matters, How to Make Your Tuesday Super at Chaos Scenario, Bad Customer Service at Men With Pens)

Customer Engagement (hint: work on the human aspects of Customer Experience first!)

Project Runway (you get it or you don’t)

Turner Classic Movies (esp. TCM Underground Fridays, their web design, and graphics)

TED

Free Rice

Dennis Hopper for Ameriprise

Dunkin’ Donuts

Zappos

kuler

Keith Ferrazzi

the 1940s

blush

linen

peacock (this just in: very slick use of peacock at the redesigned Chris Brogan)

silver

Hot Colors for SMBs

pewter

lemongrass

tomato

cordovan

paper bags

Human Sigma

table tennis (Olympic trials in Philadelphia)

librarians (check out Library Crunch and David Lee King

space travel

active retirees

dark chocolate

Webkinz (much to my chagrin)

Tata Motors’ Nano car

Canadian bloggers (Buzz Canuck, [one of the] Men With Pens, and IttyBiz, for starters)

giving back (pros from Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, more pros from Fast Company, and cons from Thomas Sowell.)

tech backlash

sharing your PowerPoints with the world

List of Banished Words

Make My Logo Bigger Cream

Moleskine notebooks (Paul at Idea Sandbox has them systematized)

We Feel Fine

Hugh McLeod

 

and finally, for everything I missed, The Essentialist

Let’s hear from you: What fresh breezes are helping you build your business right now?

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Or, What’s Out Is Out, Part 4

Want a look that says you never left the 60s, or even the 50s? Try these trends with a grilled cheese sandwich on Wonder bread:

  • Trippy, psychedelic anything
  • Crazy squashed “hand” lettering filling a page
  •  

  • Vinyl
  •  

  • Fluorescent colors, esp. hot pink
  •  

  • Plastics
  •  

  • Turquoise
  • Bubble-gum pink
  •  

  • Cheap flatware
  • Napkin dispensers on tables
  • Plastic “glassware”
  •  

  • Farm equipment as décor
  • Fishing equipment as décor
  • Hunting equipment as décor
  •  

  • Neon signage

And, unless you’re a bowling-alley proprietor:

  • All things bowling

That’s the Little List of 50s–60s Don’ts. Can your company make tasteful or tongue-in-cheek use of an element from this list? Maybe, if done with skill. Maybe, if you know your Ideal Customer very, very well.

Whether starting up or considering a redesign, be cautious. These tired color, fashion, and furnishing trends have been done, and mark your business as uninformed. Using interior design, graphic design, and staff uniforms/grooming standards from another era can limit your customer base to people who have positive associations with the decade in question.

Negative associations are starting to fade from 1950s and 1960s design. What’s left on this list are elements that may just never be cool again. As we leave the Baby Boom and the Summer of Love behind in our memories, taking inspiration from these decades can be done, especially with a younger market that didn’t live through it the first time. If intentional, it can even be kitschy or campy, in a good way—but be warned: There’s a fine line between inspired and tacky. There’s a lot of “retro” design out there right now, and retro is in danger of developing its own negative associations—or has it already? If you’re guilty, take charge today and start planning a revamped Customer Experience!

Moderation in all things, and if you’ve got to wear that bowling shirt to work (oh, please don’t!), find a way to renew, revitalize, and take the concept into this millennium. Time warps are only funny to a very limited market!

That’s all, folks. ‘Cause everyone knows the forties are hot right now, for one thing, and because it’s time to do a big list of what’s in. If you want to keep your business up on how to reel in customers with great Experience Design, take a moment to subscribe now, at the top left of this page. It’s easy and it’s free!

Care to agree, disagree, or add to the list of dated 1950s and 60s design trends? Leave a comment below!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

What got me started? If You Lived Through It Once…

Which 70s motifs should burn, baby, burn? Read Part 3!

Or, What’s Out Is Out, Part 3

Want a look that says you never left the 70s? Try these trends with Donna Summer blaring from your 8-track player:

  • Avocado
  • Harvest gold
  • All-black
  • Olive
  •  

  • Mirrored surfaces
  • Multiple-colored silkscreen portraits à la Andy Warhol
  •  

  • Long tresses, ponytails (male staff)
  • Unkempt facial hair (ditto!!!)
  •  

  • Eco-preaching (in now: Do it, don’t blab about it)
  •  

  • Smoking
  •  

  • Helvetica
  •  

  • Benches
  • Step-down seating areas
  • Furniture shaped like human forms
  • Shag carpeting

And, though I believe it’s illegal in 38 states and several Canadian provinces:

  • Disco balls

That’s the Little List of 70s Don’ts. Can your company make tasteful or tongue-in-cheek use of an element from this list? Maybe, if done with skill. Maybe, if you know your Ideal Customer very, very well.

Whether starting up or considering a redesign, be cautious. These tired color, fashion, and furnishing trends have been done, and mark your business as uninformed. Using interior design, graphic design, and staff uniforms/grooming standards from another era can limit your customer base to people who have positive associations with the decade in question.

This list is a bit shorter than the previous two, because negative associations are starting to fade from 1970s design. What’s left on this list are elements that may just never be cool again. As we leave the 70s behind in our memories, taking inspiration from the decade can be done, especially with a younger market that didn’t live through it the first time. Watch out! Overkill is just that, to any customer. If you’re guilty, take charge today and start planning a revamped Customer Experience!

Moderation in all things, and if you’ve got to have that conversation pit in your store or restaurant (oh, please don’t!), find a way to renew, revitalize, and take the concept into this millennium. Time warps are only funny to a very limited market!

Care to agree, disagree, or add to the list of dated 70s design trends? Leave a comment below!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

‹‹ Part 2  What else is out?  Part 4 ››

Or, What’s Out Is Out, Part 2

Want a look that says you never left the 90s? Get a bowl of half-decaf caramel latte and try these trends:

  • Minimalism
  • Asian influence
  • African influence
  • Other faux ethnicity
  •  

  • Pastels
  • Grungy white
  • Orange
  •  

  • Plaid
  • Shabby anything
  • Medical-inspired
  • Techno, digital
  •  

  • Casual Fridays
  • Long flowery skirts
  • Slouchy comfort
  •  

  • Papyrus (the typeface)
  • Grunge fonts
  • “Pixel” fonts
  • Swooshes
  • Ovals, esp. around a logo
  •  

  • Faux woodcuts
  • Sponge painted walls
  • Faux painting
  • (Faux=90s?)
  •  

  • Mass-produced “home” cooking

And though you weren’t going to come in to work this way (I hope):

  • The unwashed look

That’s the Little List of 90s Don’ts. Can your company make tasteful or tongue-in-cheek use of an element from this list? Maybe, if done with skill. Maybe, if you know your Ideal Customer very, very well.

Whether starting up or considering a redesign, be cautious. These tired color, fashion, and furnishing trends have been done, and mark your business as uninformed. Using interior design, graphic design, and staff uniforms/grooming standards from another era can limit your customer base to people who have positive associations with the decade in question.

I could have linked to all sorts of examples, but I don’t want to be in the business of calling people out. I see unwittingly out-of-touch design all over as I travel, both in the real world and the Internet, and so do you. If the 1990s were all about faux, the new millennium is all about authenticity. Keep the African masks on the wall, if you are serving African food. Not if you think it might attract African Americans. It’s just not enough. If you’re guilty, take charge today and start planning a revamped Customer Experience!

Moderation in all things, and if you’ve got to have that “Tuscan” mural on the wall (oh, please don’t!), find a way to renew, revitalize, and take the concept into this millennium. Time warps are only funny to a very limited market!

Care to agree, disagree, or add to the list of dated 90s design trends? Leave a comment below!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

‹‹ Part 1  What else is out?  Part 3 ››

Or, What’s Out Is Out, Part 1

Want a look that says you never left the 80s? Try these trends whose trains left the station when Madonna met Prince and Harry Met Sally:

  • Purple
  • Black
  • Grey
  • Teal
  • Mint green
  • Dusty blue
  • Mauve
  • All white
  •  

  • Fake kids’ writing, brush lettering, bubble lettering typefaces
  • Prep-school/university-style type and insignias
  •  

  • Grossly overpriced wine lists
  •  

  • Overt sexiness
  • Overt masculinity
  • Skinny black ties
  • Scruffiness
  •  

  • Postmodernism
  • High gloss
  • Memphis (Italian) furniture

And, though these are hopefully nobody’s business design choices:

  • Fishnet stockings
  • Dog collars

That’s the Little List of 80s Don’ts. Can your company make tasteful or tongue-in-cheek use of an element from this list? Maybe, if done with skill. Maybe, if you know your Ideal Customer very, very well.

Whether starting up or considering a redesign, be cautious. These tired color, fashion, and furnishing trends have been done, and mark your business as uninformed. Using interior design, graphic design, and staff uniforms/grooming standards from another era can limit your customer base to people who have positive associations with the decade in question.

I could have linked to all sorts of examples, but I don’t want to be in the business of calling people out. I see unwittingly out-of-touch design all over as I travel, both in the real world and the Internet, and so do you. Because the 80s are not so very far away (to some), you may have been so busy that you didn’t notice your design strategy was in crisis. If you’re guilty, take charge today and start planning a revamped Customer Experience!

Moderation in all things, and if you’ve got to have that purple and black color scheme (oh, please don’t!), find a way to renew, revitalize, and take the concept into this millennium. Time warps are only funny to a very limited market!

Care to agree, disagree, or add to the list of dated 80s design trends? Leave a comment below!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

What got me started? If You Lived Through It Once…

Say buh-bye, 90s. Click to read Part 2.

“Mustard”

I’m seeing it everywhere, and I’m telling you if you’re too young to know, it’s been done to death already.

Watch the MCE Blog starting next week for a short series on trends that are so out, they’re… still out. Companies that want to be in it for the long haul can use an element of retro inspiration here and there, but some things need to be left alone unless you’re going for that clueless and dated look.

Can you say “Harvest Gold”?

What old trends do you hope stay buried? Seen anything in stores or on the Internet lately that gives you bad flashbacks?

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson