Recently, I arrived at a hotel wanting to check in and the front of house staff directed me to a self-service kiosk. The kiosk asked for my surname to begin the process. I duly entered it, but it could not find a reservation under my name.
The booking had failed and now I had no reservation. This wasn’t a big issue because I thought I could just pay for a room there and then.
I asked to make a booking and was told:
you can’t book onsite, customers can only book online.
That wouldn’t have been a problem except I’d forgotten my phone at home. Long story short, I had to find a bar nearby to use their wifi to book online as the wifi wasn’t working properly at the hotel.
I understand from a businesses perspective that it’s cheaper for customers to self-serve. However, it’s important to think about what happens when it doesn’t work and how they can continue to do business and accept custom.
When designing a service it’s important to design the happy and unhappy paths. Yes, the ideal path can be designed well, but there will always be exceptions and they need to be understood and designed too. Its important that businesses get out into the wild and observe customers trying to do the thing they designed so they can uncover these exception paths.