One of the risks in creating comprehensive brand experience frameworks, replete with scripted behaviors that employees must follow dutifully down to the letter, is that it can make a mockery of conventional human activities.
Take my shopping visit over lunch to Borders, which is a few blocks closer than Barnes & Noble—a critical decision factor when the rain is pelting down in its characteristic Seattle fashion. Walking through the front door, I paused to peruse the new Eoin Colfer entry into The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy canon. Scanning through the preface, I was interrupted by a headset-wearing young woman.
"Need any assistance?"
"No, thank you," I demurred, glancing briefly through the tome before wandering deeper into the wilds of Fiction & Literature. As I strolled along the stacks, the book spines flicking past in reverse alphabetical order, I was stopped by another Borders employee.
"Looking for something?"
"No, just browsing, thanks," I said. I didn't want to let her know the title of the book I was seeking—Alain de Botton's The Architecture of Happiness—so I wouldn't be sucked into dialogue regarding cross-listing of books within various departments, opportunities for special orders that may be delivered to the shop, and an infinitude of other actions that could emerge from that simple request for help. She can tell that I am hedging my true intent, as most customers do, and swiftly moves along to Westerns.
I arrived at the B's. They only had copies of de Botton's On Love and How Proust Can Change Your Life. I took the former book from the top shelf and began to read the first chapter.
"Finding what you're looking for?" I turned to see another Borders employee, kindly smiling up at me as my mind froze mid-sentence.
"You bet, no problem," I said. She continued about her business. I continued to read about transatlantic flights, the probabilities inherent in meeting your true love, and a host of other topics. After glancing at a few other volumes on the shelf, I started to walk out—only to be confronted by yet another staffer.
"Need any help?" he said.
What I wanted to say: "I do need help. I need you to seriously rethink what customer service looks like in a bookstore."
Instead what came out was a final, cavernous "No." This was the last word I emitted before leaving.