Top 3 Worst Consumer Environments

Environmental disasters and how to improve them

Top 3 Worst Consumer Environments

From the DMV to drug stores, we encounter physical environments every day that are desperately in need of a do-over.

As we recently addressed in Top-3 Trends in Physical Environments, some of the most innovative brands and institutions are reinventing the physical channel of experience in original ways. Yet, some environments remain stuck in the not-so-user-friendly past. In this roundup, we take stock of three environments you are likely to encounter that are long overdue for an overhaul. Not only will we identify what’s wrong with them from the eye of the consumer, but we’ll also provide some solutions for elevating the experience. 

1) Environment: Airport Concourses and Gates

Snapshot: This is the time of year when travelers around the world return home for the holidays. While they are greeted with open arms at home, they may not find such a warm welcome at the airport. Airports are some of the loudest places on earth. From plane take-offs and landings to announcements blaring from loud speakers all around, it’s an all-out aural assault. And even though announcements are everywhere, why do you still go out to the concourse upon deplaning and have to look right and left to figure out where the heck baggage claim is? Further, anyone with a flight delay knows just how uncomfortable gate seating is and what a veritable showdown it is over who gets to charge their phone.

Top 3 Worst Consumer Environments

Fixes: Focus on signage and stations. With signage, it’s not just way-finding for people arriving at the airport, but making arrival passenger signage a priority too. That way, weary travelers confused about where to go won’t have to ask harried airline staff or fellow travelers at the end of a long day of travel. Another quick change that makes a difference for travelers is prioritizing placement of charging stations throughout the gate area. When these stations are readily available, consumers feel like their airline understands the demands of modern travel and provides a customer convenience for them. It’s personal – enabling travelers to stay in touch – and it’s an easy upgrade for the airport experience. 

2) Environment: Medical Offices

Snapshot: We have spent a good amount of time evaluating all the ways healthcare is behind the eight ball as it relates to customer experience, yet many healthcare institutions seem to be waiting for a massive overhaul before making any changes to their environments. Just as in airports, seating remains a pressing issue. Uncomfortable chairs have become a hallmark of the healthcare waiting room experience. But unlike airports, announcements are not blaring overhead. In fact, information is so sparse the healthcare consumer has to continually ask for updates and basic information – where’s the restroom, how much longer, where do I go, where do I pay, or where is the lab?

Top 3 Worst Consumer Environments
As we all know, consumer experience in healthcare lags woefully behind other industries, but that doesn’t mean everything has to change before anything can change.”

Fixes: Focus on convenience. Healthcare brands can focus today on some key areas of customer experience and begin their move toward a more retail style of delivery. Way-finding and instructional signage doesn’t cost much and gives the healthcare consumer what they crave – information. Even if signage is out of the question, having staff provide answers to most frequently asked questions in advance of the patient asking can foster a lot of goodwill. Another convenient quick fix is providing Wi-Fi and entertainment options for the wait. 

3) Environment: Discount, Warehouse and Big Box Stores

Snapshot: ‘Tis the season when consumers spend more time shopping than any other time of year. Unless you have a personal shopper to navigate the stores for you, you’ll likely find yourself somewhere near a discount, warehouse or big box store during the holidays. One thing’s for sure: it will be messy and maybe even a little gross. Any shopper knows it’s not just crazed masses on Black Friday who rifle through piles of goods and leave a disorganized pile of rubble in their wake; it’s every day. Things get moved to the wrong place – packaged meat in housewares, anyone? And customers leave used up personal items like coffee cups in random places for other customers to discover. Oh joy!

Top 3 Worst Consumer Environments

Fixes: Retail brands of all varieties can focus on clean, organized spaces. Even if you are a down-and-dirty discount store, consumers still want to find what they’re looking for, and retailers want them to as well. Retail brands should make shopping easier by having like items grouped together –shower curtains and rings should be displayed together, for example. And categories should make sense – don’t have grocery next to underwear for goodness’ sake. Lastly, retail stores should make it part of their brand promise to have staff make rounds to pick up, clean up and shape up. Not just once or twice a day, but consistently throughout every day. No one likes finding a half-eaten sandwich on a shelf. No one. 

For more information experience design for physical environments or to speak with one of our experts, contact Adrenaline at

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