Walk into any store, restaurant, theatre, medical office, workplace, or other “bricks and mortar” location and the customer experience is all around you.

You can gauge how the business feels about its customers and guests.

Are staff smiling, welcoming, and helpful or indifferent, rude, or hostile? Is the space clean and inviting?

Most important, how easy is it for you to do what you came to do?

Doing has to be easy—offline and online.

I was thinking about this topic after I read Gerry McGovern’s Print Is View, Web is Do column. In it he writes:

How much of your organization’s online world is made up of dead zones and how much is do zones? A dead zone is any space where there’s nothing to do. It’s a big pretty picture, or a huge graphic-heavy masthead, or a long-winded explanation of what you do or what the customer can do. The customer doesn’t want an explanation of what they can do. They just want to do.

Companies spend a lot of time thinking about usability. We talk about pathways and funnels, and how to turn browsers into buyers and prospects into clients. We follow our analytics like breadcrumbs to see how people navigate our sites just as bricks and mortar locations use sensors, wait times, cash receipts, and other data to track movement across the physical space.

There’s one place many organizations fail online.

Their contact information is hidden or nonexistent.

They’re making it hard for us to “do.”

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve searched a Web site far too long (or in vain) for a street address, a contact name, or even a generic e-mail address or switchboard number. Some of it is bad usability—but much of it is a deliberate choice.

This isn’t about being findable.

Every company that hides its corporate information in an effort to funnel inquiries-concerns-complaints through a call center is sending a signal about its approachability. So is every small business owner who relies on a contact form. And (as in the case of my condo association) every board member who hides behind a generic “info @ company” e-mail address.

Being approachable is a piece of the customer experience. Is your business approachable? Are you?

Photo by maxymedia (Flickr).