I was in a great mood the other day, after concluding a visit to the University of Maryland. For that reason, I decided to stop at a Starbucks before driving back to Philadelphia.
Not knowing the town of College Park as well as I should, I called the 800 information number for Starbucks. Option 6 lets the caller provide a ten-digit telephone number, after which the system provides a list of nearby stores. I gave it the main number of the university (301-405-1000) and the system started to give me store information.
There was only one problem. None of the stores I'm hearing are really that close to the university. I heard about a store in Lanham, a store in Largo and a store in Greenbelt. Sure, they're in the general vicinity, but I would expect a much closer store to the university. Being in an adventurous mood, therefore, I decided to see if a nearer store is in fact available. I left the university main entrance and turned south onto U.S. Route 1. Two blocks later, I saw a Starbucks in a shopping center on my right. This location never was announced by the 800 system.
After finishing my beverage, I asked for and found the manager of the store, and told him the situation. He looked puzzled, but then grateful, and thanked me. In fact, he said to me, "That's important -- I want those customers coming to ME."
Maybe you manage the internal help desk or walk-in center of your company. In that case, your customers probably know where you are or can find you easily enough, because you're in the same building or campus. Others, however, may be in a different situation. Maybe you manage the service center, or the store itself, of an electronics or computer retailer. Maybe you're the branch manager of a consulting practice. In that case, the ability of customers or clients to find you is important to you.
If you have a telephone or web-based locator system, make sure it announces your location. Test it yourself, using local phone numbers and (if applicable) zip codes. Also check any directions that the web page provides, especially if uses a mapping service. You don't want customers driving, for example, the wrong way on a one-way street, or across a park.
Are you using landmarks? Be aware that street names can change. Also, hotels can be "reflagged." That is, the Marriott hotel on the corner could become, tomorrow, a Hilton. If you're giving out exit numbers of highways, be aware that many highways are switching from sequential-based to mileage-based exit numbering. For example, the "Valley Forge" exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike used to be exit 24, because it was the 24th exit as you traveled east from the Ohio state line. Now, however, it is exit 326, because it physically is 326 miles from the Ohio line. If your directions fail to account for any such changes, your customers could get confused or lost. For further details, see my March 11 blog entry "Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em," at http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/helpdesk/?p=14
Following these tips may minimize the chances of a lost customer.
Do you have questions or comments? I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Calvin Sun is an attorney who writes about technology and legal issues for TechRepublic.