Enablers: location, location, location


La Baie de Somme – relaxing, even on a dull day

If you want to lay the foundation for a great customer experience it’s a good idea to start with the look and feel of your location – both physical and virtual.


Let’s consider physical location  – and I’ll indulge in another of my specious comparisons by comparing British and European motorway service stations. Not all French service stations are wonderful (some are little more than petrol stations with a shop), but I want to highlight one in particular that is so good that when we are driving through Northern France we try to make sure we pick that one rather than the others that are nearby.

La Baie de Somme service area can be found on the A16 Calais-Paris motorway. If we assume that a service area’s primary function is to provide an opportunity to break a long drive then La Baie de Somme delivers this superbly. Not only does it have enough shopping and eating facilities to keep you fed and watered, it has a pleasing architectural design (see photo) and, more importantly, plenty of space to walk around and a number of water features, which add to the relaxing atmosphere.

Contrast this with typical, over-crowded British motorway services where the emphasis seems to be on shopping and (over-priced, poor quality) eating.

I draw this unfair comparison to illustrate the following point: it seems that whoever planned La Baie de Somme sat down and thought ‘What do we want our service station to achieve?’ and, I assume, got an answer that went something like ‘We want visitors to feel relaxed and refreshed and thereby leave with a positive image of the Baie de Somme region’. My guess is that if anyone sat down with a similar question in Moto, RoadChef or similar chains, the answer would be expressed in terms of revenue per square metre, with customer experience way down the list of priorities.

Key questions for customer-facing organisations:

  • What are our locations intended to achieve for our customers?
  • Have they been designed and/or built to achieve it?
  • Is the intention consistent with the delivery of a superior service?

The answers to these questions will determine whether you are really serious about superior customer service or not.

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