On a short trip through the shopping concourse at Union Station last week I noticed amazing pink chocolate boxes at Laura Secord. Yes, indeed, they were Sex and the City chocolates! I thought to capture a short video of them for you, dear reader, which is below.
What isn't in the video is that two huge security guards came up behind me and got all serious about "what was I videoing", and made vague references to the need for heightened security in the shopping concourse because of the impending G20 meetings here. They even told me I was not on public property -- how this can be true in a transit hub is beyond me.
Given that I had just finished a book on body language (previous post), I found it fascinating how quickly these guys were able to make my stomach do flip-flops just by standing far too close to me, mere inches from my face. Too close to see their hands, too close to see their feet.
The fact they were wearing bulletproof vests didn't help. And neither one identified themselves, so I still don't know who they were, although at the time I assumed them to be private security guards.
I'm joking about it now, but the truth is, at the time I found this quite distressing, it totally took the fun out of my day. And I didn't feel like buying any SATC chocolates either, although they might have helped my mood. Instead of lingering, I left, happy not to have had these guys pawing my Blackberry.
Having just returned from the Czech Republic, an authoritarian regime until the early 90's, it made me wonder what it must be like to live in a totalitarian state, where intimidation is the rule of the day every day.
Every day intimidations customers endure
On a more mundane level, when you put yourself in your customer's shoes, it's important to consider what elements of your environment are potentially intimidating. Because intimidation is rarely a desirable element in a customer experience, and it is present more often than you'd suspect.
Older bank branches and hospitals are good examples of environments constructed to be intimidating, to hold up the authority of the institution, and to varying degrees de-personalize the customers/patients. Contrast the feeling in these environments with newer constructions and you will see that this was no accident.
Many pharmacies still put the pharmacist on a raised platform so that they are always standing above you, reinforcing a status difference. Not only that, but you must endure a private discussion in the presence of others -- others waiting in boredom for their own few moments of reluctant self-disclosure.
Once you start looking for these elements in customer environments, you will find them everywhere, in the way the environment is designed, or the way the employees behave.
By contrast, consider the environments that are winning awards and leading business results -- frequently, these organizations have systematically re-thought the power structure signals and elevated the status of the customer. And customers love it.
The video that threatened security of the G20, or something like that