The Olympics and designing for the visitor experience

Visiting the Olympic Park and other venues for the Olympics and the Paralympics, a clear winner was how brilliantly managed they have been from the visitor perspective.  What lessons might be learned for airports, railway stations or other public spaces?

The main pitfall that was avoided was long queues.  There was much in the press before the games about the likelihood of long queues at venues (and at the airports!) especially for security.  But those fears were unfounded.  The uncomfortable truth for other organisations is that this was because of the level of human resources that were deployed at manning gates and security areas etc.  With lots of gates and lines in operation, the throughput of people has been sufficient to have almost no queing.  The Olympics were obviously able to draw about a vast army of volunteers in the wonderful Games Makers as well as the armed forces (and G4S!) for the security areas.  More commercial organisations do not have these resources which is why there is currently a drive in airports, supermarkets, etc for self-service.

However the second truth is that the experience for visitors in using the venues has been enhanced by the fact that the security areas and gates and other points of potential congestion have been manned by real people. As visitors, we often don’t actually want to interact with a machine (whose usability has probably been poorly designed anyway) – kiosks and other devices offer a second best option.

The other key for the Olympics is that those people have been enthusiastic, welcoming, happy and a joy to interact with.  Again, this is difficult for operators in airports etc: the Games Makers and other Olympic staff were highly motivated, part of an experience themselves and only had to maintain their levels of positivity for a few weeks.

But both of these show the difference that can be made to the passenger/visitor experience if there is still interaction with real people and those people are positive and helpful.  A real challenge for a day-to-day service delivery.



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