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Keeping the customer satisfied

Keeping the customer satisfied

 Sian Kelly, Director of the Sign Design Society (SDS) argues that the provision of good wayfinding is an important part of customer service


I recently attended the Shopping Centre Management Conference in Brighton, a must-attend event for anyone involved in the management and wider operation of retail property and wider retail spaces.

Unsurprisingly, customer service was a recurring theme across several of the sessions and was further endorsed by the event culminating in the presentation of the annual ACE awards that celebrate exemplary customer service delivered by shopping centre staff.

Clearly, when it comes to delivering a high standard of customer care, shopping centre staff is at the core. But there are other things, as discussed in the April Edition of Shopping Centre Magazine – seating for older customers, ethical credentials (evidenced by the provision of car charging points and recycling bins), clean and fresh smelling toilets and the suitability of baby change facilities.

One thing that wasn’t mentioned during any of the sessions or within the article was wayfinding. The importance of wayfinding as a component of a shopping centre’s customer service delivery is something I’ve referred to in a previous article (although it was more from a cost-benefit analysis point of view).

But it’s worth another airing. In the preamble to describe why each ACE contender deserved an award, most involved an interaction with a customer or mystery shopper with a wayfinding query. If responding to wayfinding queries is used as a benchmark to assess customer service performance, it suggests that they occur pretty regularly.

Generally speaking, we don’t actively seek to engage with strangers as we go about our everyday business. So having to resort to tracking down a member of staff for help finding a particular retailer or facility could be said to be a customer service failure. And what about those occasions when there isn’t a member of staff around to provide the answers? Research has shown that feeling lost will result in negative arousal, making it more likely that shoppers will head for the exit.

Certainly, within the UK we expect static wayfinding information to be provided within public spaces to help us navigate. With the pervasiveness of smartphones we’re used to having information at our fingertips … and are becoming less tolerant about waiting.

If you’re serious about delivering a high standard of customer service to shoppers, you need to include wayfinding information in the mix. Just having wayfinding signs present isn’t enough. The scheme needs to be designed with the customer in mind and the information presenting in a way that can be easily understood and acted on. That all sounds obvious and simple enough, but the reason that wayfinding is emerging as a specialist design discipline, is that obvious it may be, but simple it is not.

So the message to shopping centre managers is – if you’re embarking on a programme to improve customer service, make sure that you get a wayfinding consultant in to review the performance of your wayfinding information.

Sian Kelly is also a director of The Velvet Principle, a wayfinding and experiential graphic design consultancy. 

 For further information on the Sign Design Society, visit:

 For further information on The Velvet Principle, visit:

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