I hate that roundabout! – How a road junction can act as an analogy for a bad customer experience


 

Hangar Lane Gyratory System
Hangar Lane Gyratory System

We all have road junctions that we hate driving in, around, or through. If you are reading this from the UK and have ever had the joy of driving around Hangar Lane in West London, you will know what I mean. An enormous multi-lane roundabout (with a Tube station in the middle!), Hangar Lane is one of those places that you only drive through if you have no choice – if there is no other option.

Hangar Lane is not alone on my list of ‘road junctions to avoid’. Have you ever been to Swindon? I have nothing against the town in the West of England. I do not go there that often. However, so bad is the ‘Magic Roundabout’ roundabout, I will always relate Swindon with one of the most confusing road systems I have ever experienced. It was actually voted the fourth scariest junction in Britain in a poll by Brittania Rescue!

The Magic Roundabout in Swindon
The Magic Roundabout in Swindon

It is not just the UK that has road layouts from hell. Have you ever driven around the Arc de Triomphe? If you have, congratulations on surviving the experience. There are places in Western Europe where you literally take your life in your own hands. I remember visiting Rome a few years ago – my advice is to walk!!

You may or may not find this talk of road junctions interesting. You are probably wondering what on earth it has to do with the world of Customer Experience. Please allow me to explain. At the weekend, the Golding family needed to visit a particular retail outlet. There are two options for accessing this particular ‘out of town’ store by car. I would describe one as the longer distance ‘scenic route’ and the other as the ‘direct route’.

On Sunday, the longer distance ‘scenic route’ was closed due to road works. This left us with only one option – to go the direct route – and that is where both the problem and the inspiration for this blog post lie. The direct route takes you to one of my most hated road junctions in the UK. Known affectionately as the ‘Hamburger Roundabout’ (as it looks like a hamburger), the local council re-modelled the road a few years ago, replacing an equally horrible old fashioned roundabout. The new junction is so horrible; I would do anything to avoid it. I would always plump for the long distance scenario, as despite taking longer; it is easier, less hassle and does not stress me out!

Chester's Hamburger Roundabout
Chester’s Hamburger Roundabout

That is what made me think. Most of us will do anything to avoid road junctions that we do not enjoy using. We will divert; avoid; resist going anywhere near them. We will do anything we can to find another way. Now think of the companies you interact, or have interacted with – how many of them make you feel like your worst road junction? How many of them make you want to avoid using them at all costs? How many of them force you to take another option – even if that option takes you longer and costs you more money?

We all want our customer experiences to do three simple things:

  1. to do what we intend to do
  2. to be easy to do
  3. to leave us feeling good about the experience.

My road junction analogy is what will happen if your organisation fails on any of these three components of customer experience.  Most road junctions will allow you to do what you need to do – to get to your destination – that can also be said for the experiences most companies serve up. Where things start to fail is in the ‘easy to do’ part. If a road junction is confusing, complicated, or just too scary to contemplate, the user will find a way around it. Your customers are no different – if the experience is not easy enough, they will find another way that is easier – probably with another company. If all you remember about a location is the horrible road layout, you have a problem – if you apply this principle to your customer experience, the problem is amplified.

It may surprise you, but road systems and customer experiences have more in common than a simple analogy. They can both be re-designed if they do not work. There is a cost to re-designing both, but nevertheless, if your insight, data and analytics tell you that the customer journey is not meeting customer expectation, then you can look to re-design the experience to make it more capable of doing so. Whoever re-designed the Hamburger Roundabout in Chester did not make a very good job of it!

On Sunday we got to our final destination. I did not particularly enjoy the experience. I know of people who will not visit the retailers based next to the Hamburger roundabout – not because of the retailers, but because of the road junction.

So apply the road junction analogy to your organisations customer experience and ask yourself the question – is your customer experience more like Hangar Lane or a simple crossroads with traffic lights?

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