Clarity in All Things
First, I should apologize for late posting; I was either in the air or in one of four airports on Friday this week so regular orders had to take precedence over updating the blog in the limited time available. As a direct result of this travelling, however, I was also inspired to interrupt my four-part grammar series, Why Grammar is Necessary for Clarity, postponing the fourth and last part till next Friday.
Why the interruption? Frustration with the lack of clarity that I encountered, in one airport in particular – I won’t name it but suffice to say that fabled Southern charm was sadly missing here – led me to consider the importance to businesses of all kinds of clarity. It’s not just to do with grammar, although that is often an essential factor, it’s to do with customer service and ensuring your customers have a good experience and give you return business. (I, for example, will avoid this particular airport like the plague in future.)
I promise this is not just a rant about negative travel experiences but I encountered frustration after frustration in my first connecting airport, largely due to – yes, you guessed it – lack of clarity. If one works in an airport, one quickly learns the systems inherent in that particular location and therefore they seem familiar and obvious. Yet even frequent flyers may not be familiar at all with this one airport and many travellers may be making their first visit there so the systems are not at all obvious to them! Clarity should be essential (assuming, of course, that the airport management has any interest in keeping its users happy or facilitating their passage through the airport).
Signage is one of the worst offenders – often confusing, sometimes downright inadequate. Running late for my connecting flight, I stood in a – very long – line for security for some 10 minutes before I noticed a small group of passengers going to a separate desk with no line-up at all. Managing to catch the officer’s eye, I enquired if the “TSA Pre-checked” stamped on my boarding pass meant I could do this also. Yes, of course I could (and consequently breezed through security with minimal disruption/unpacking and no shoe removal, comfortably making a flight that I could well have missed in the regular line). The problem? No clear sign indicating that there was an option to take this line – no one else was doing so and sheeplike we tend to follow the main crowd!
I mentioned to the officer that – while this expeditious clearance was awesome – there was nothing to indicate the available option. “Sorry, we normally have someone standing there..” Really? There appear – to the casual observer – to be many employees standing around directing traffic, sometimes useful if one needs guidance or information, sometimes not, but should the airport be paying a full-time salary to someone just to explain to people which line they should be in? Clear signage would do the job far better and more cheaply! Similarly the ground personnel checking my bag and issuing ongoing boarding passes could have mentioned the option – they didn’t. The assumption is that everyone realizes this – they don’t! (This was only one such example in this airport where sadly almost every person I did encounter in an official capacity was either abrupt, sarcastic or downright rude – don’t even get me started on the ridiculously cumbersome and inefficent organization of their immigration hall; I did promise this wouldn’t become a rant!)
The same principle, however, applies to any business – assume clients are completely unfamiliar with the way your company/store/online site operates and give clear instructions! Train receptionists and other personnel that customers encounter on first contact to provide all necessary assistance, advice and clear, courteous communication. Put up signs that are not ambiguous. Then have someone walk through your place of business or go online and place a sample order. If they find something confusing, change it! Every experience should be a positive one!
Back next week with the final episode in our grammar series.