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What kind of banana do you want your customers to be?

A while ago we endeavoured to make a point to a potential client about the importance of their customers and how they are treated, or feel treated. First, we sent a banana in the post packaged, truthfully, in probably a slightly insufficient amount of packaging. Then, just prior to the crucial pitch, we sent another banana by courier. Finally, on the day of the meeting, we took another banana with us, this time carefully assembled into a presentation pack and delivered, by hand, as a perfect specimen as we began our pitch.


It will not require the attention of the geniuses amongst you to realise that the first banana was a flattened, blackened mess, the second was whole but bruised and battered, while the third, well, very simply the third was how we all want to feel as customers; it was special, cared for, thought about and handled with care.


In this case, pitching to an airline, the metaphor is obvious. If you handle your passengers badly, they will feel like the squashed banana. They will not feel the way they should: precious, special, looked-after and, let’s face it, better looking and in good shape. Of course, put a passenger in business or first class and they will expect – and get – very high levels of service, the best seats, flawless access to entertainment, lounges and so on. These enhancements are easy to offer, to communicate and develop because the budgets and the space is available.


Yet these benefits need not always be grand gestures. One simple example is a recent version of the Superlight from Acro Aircraft Seating, called XC, which is designed to exploit the extra width in certain aircraft. Crucially, this additional space is not given equally to each of three seats, but gives extra width to the middle seat, acknowledging that this is the least pleasant seat and requires extra shoulder room as the passenger is pinned between two others.


In the case of JetBlue Airways, what design brings here is choice. By introducing a lie-flat business-class seat into their narrow-body fleet, JetBlue have challenged the perception of transcontinental travel. They have added options and enhancements to their offer. They have thought about their passengers, acknowledged their different needs and wants and, with the help of Factorydesign and Thompson Aero, developed a new product to provide new features and benefits that will make their passengers feel special.


The message is equally true when thinking about anyone who interacts with anything; any product, space, texture, technology, form, function, colour – big or small. Take another recent product that we designed for Sellotape called the On-hand dispenser. A small tape dispenser which can be attached to your hand for easy access to tape while continuing to use both hands to wrap a gift; and the user (never been a pleasant title) thinks, 'I like this, Sellotape have thought about me, I like Sellotape'. Simple really. You can see a video of the product HERE.


Or in another market, were we have designed commercial washbasins for Lovair (for which we have won another prestigious DBA Design Effectiveness award) that features a unique mounting system giving benefits to the user (that word again), in this case the installer, making installation and maintenance easier. Combining this with customisable design features means these products are hugely successful and have become widely embraced by the architectural world.


Call them what you like – customers, passengers, consumers, guests, patients, early adopters, geeks, partners… users (sigh), they all need looking after. Why? Because if, during the course of engaging with whatever space, product or brand we design they feel special then they will enjoy the product or interaction and return to it, use it again, buy it again, consume it again, share it with others. And that’s good for business.


So which banana are your customers? Squashed, shaken or looked after; resentful, troubled or devoted fans.? Factorydesign was set up over 16 years ago and continues to provide friendly, thoughtful creative services and innovative design solutions. From our studios and workshops in West London, a base from which we work all over the world, we help our clients make their customers feel like the Top Banana.


15 December 2013


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