Swimming pool hair dryers

in Considerations, Design

Your service sucks, and why you should care

My two sons have been taking swimming classes all winter.

It’s an interesting experience, at least in Italy. Swimming pools have not been designed to be usable. That’s the reality of things.

A while ago I wrote this:

“I think that one of the biggest problems in this country is that every product or service provider solves his operational problems by simply pushing them to the end users, and this is always the best way to deliver an awful user experience.”

I was upset with the swimming pool management team.

As the class ends, a horde of screaming children runs to the showers. In a few minutes they are done and then comes the tragedy. They need to dry their hair. There are only a few hair dryers and to operate them you need a token that you can buy only at the swimming pool reception. I tried to buy 20 tokens in order to avoid the queue I find every Saturday, but they told me I couldn’t. I asked why, and the guy replied that if every parent had bought 20 tokens they will finish in minutes. The official rule of the house states that you can buy five tokens per child.

Do you see the problem?

In this simple story, we can identify at least three different operation issues that could be easily solved with a simple Service Design exercise.

Let’s try to dig a little bit deeper:

  • You don’t sell more than five tokens per child because you will run out of tokens –> Buy more tokens. Token availability is your problem, not mine.
  • You are trying to monetize the “dry hair” affair. Fair enough, you need to pay the bill for power, maintenance and insurance for hair dryers. –> Stop using tokens and start using coins. This will solve the previous issue as well.
  • You have the same guy dealing with tickets and tokens, and usually with clients coming in waves. –> Stop selling tokens, and use coins.
  • There are so few hair dryers that people walk away with wet hair and you loose money –> Buy more hair dryers. Again, it’s your problem, not mine.

But, at the end of the day, why are you forcing your customers to pay to dry their hair?

A perfect example of bad service design. Truth being said, no service design at all. They designed swimming pools in the same way for the last sixty years. Service design did not exist sixty years but wouldn’t it be the case to start thinking before executing?

You can always change. You must change if you want to survive. Start thinking about that and start caring about your customers. You are running a monopoly no more. Customer can choose, and they will choose the best service for the money.

Original photo by Thomas Kohler – Original Photo