service please

26 March 2014

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Yes, most things will eventually remind me of architecture or this profession.

A few weeks ago, my family traveled so my son could compete in a state math competition. This of course means hotels and restaurants over the long weekend. (I have a hotel story too, but I’ll save it). We ate out for lunch and dinner and our success is typically good because my wife and I research possible places ahead of time. Later we decide as we go with a list of potential choices. We love to find new interesting places with unique and fresh foods or something special, something that we can’t get exactly at home. There’s no point eating at McDonald’s while traveling when I can eat at McDonald’s at home (and that’s only for my son).

We visited places that each had a sharp web site, an appealing image, really good food and a nice atmosphere, but there was something about the experience in two cases that was disappointing. In one case it was a misunderstanding of the food and how it was prepared, how it was presented along with an unusually long wait to get the food. Simply put, we (my son primarily) did not get what we had envisioned, and it took too long to get. Our expectations were not met. Did we have unrealistic expectations or did the pictures, website and menu represent false expectations?

The next day at a second place, a similar thing happened where again our son did not get a dinner that he had envisioned. I think that was largely our fault for not reading carefully or asking questions. We weren’t properly engaged. Nevertheless, we were seated too close to the front door so we were uncomfortable for most of our dinnertime. The entrance did not have an airlock and the second door did not have a closer. My wife got up several times to “close the door” while giving the stink-eye to the hostess. We thought we were to be seated somewhere else, but as we followed the host, the manager guided him back to seat us by the door. It was very crowded, a small dining room and the last “comfortable” table was promised to someone else. Every time someone came in, the cold air seemed to aim right at us. The waitress was overbooked with tables and did not return soon enough to check on us. Again, the food in this case was good but other aspects of the service did not complete an experience that left us satisfied or content.

As architects we need to be able to deliver a wonderful building, a wonderful space, a wonderful environment. However, if it is off the mark in terms of what the client envisioned or off the mark in terms of the time it was supposed to take, the client can go away with the same disappointment as we went away with from our dinner experiences.

There certainly is responsibility on both sides. We could have been more careful in reading the menu and more proactive in asking questions about the items on the menu. However, as a customer, most of the things were not in our control and it left us disappointed – despite a good-looking product. That’s the memory.

photo is from copernicus’ stock photo gallery on Stock.Xchng (used under the Standard Restrictions)

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4 Responses to “service please”

  1. Jeremiah Says:

    Excellent post as always. I think you can also add that the architects job is further complicated by managing the client’s expectations during construction as well. Which also means managing the contractor. A client may walk away from the architectural process with warm fuzzies all over, but if the contractor is ill-motivated or ill-experienced and simply performs poorly, that same client who looked at you with awe and wonder may now associate you with the same incredibly frustrated and disappointed attitude as they do the contractor. Our services don’t end once the drawings are given over to the contractor and often times not even once the building is built, but perhaps years into the future.

  2. psbloom Says:

    Your post also sadly reminds us all why McDonalds is so popular. I am sure had you gone there you would have all gotten exactly – as you put it- what you had envisioned.

    • leecalisti Says:

      This is actually a great point. It’s no secret that McDonald’s success is the fact that no matter which one you go to, you know what you’ll get. People translate this into other parts of their lives and that doesn’t always translate. However, meeting expectations, especially as an architect is important. Sometimes we need to adjust or alter dare I say correct our client’s expectations. Regardless, we should meet or exceed them.


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