Information Superstars: When Customers Need Directions

You get a phone call, or someone comes to a service point, wanting to know how to get from Perry to Pretty Prairie.  No worries – you always use GPS on your phone!  Your first thought might be that this is an easy question, but searching for directions is not as straightforward as you might think.  Here are some things to keep in mind when searching for step-by-step directions.

Be careful that you are using a reputable website.

Don’t let yourself be tricked!  When searching for a direction website by name rather than the direct web address, make sure you choose the correct website.  Advertisements, for other websites, are often at the top of the results list, and may use the search words Map Quest/Google Maps/Rand McNally, in their description, to sucker you into using their website.  One I clicked on wanted me to download information from their website to my computer.  If you look at the web address for these sites you will see words such as “finddirections” or “drivingdirections” in the web address.

Start with one of these three recommended sources.

As always the reference Interview is essential.  Ask questions to clarify the customer’s needs.

For instance, the University of Kansas Health Systems has multiple campuses and their physicians have multiple offices.   The reference interview will help clarify which office they need directions for, or to which KU Med campus they are going.

If the customer wants to go to the Lyric Opera, there is a choice between where they perform, the Kauffman Center on Broadway, or their business office on Holmes.

By asking questions, you can clarify what the customer wants and get them to the correct location.

Make sure your customer understands directions from websites are not infallible.

We’ve all heard horror stories of people lost in the middle of nowhere due to bad directions. They have run out of gasoline, and the driver’s cell phone has no service.  Make sure your customer knows that there can be mistakes in the instructions and to plan accordingly.  Construction or traffic accidents may require them to find alternate routes.

All three websites have long Terms of Use pages that include liability and disclaimer statements.  They also have disclaimers located at the bottom of the directions.  The disclaimers are varied in length and content.  Here is Rand McNally’s disclaimer.  “Any directions obtained from this site or obtained from a Rand McNally mobile device are intended to be used for planning purposes, and are subject to Rand McNally’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Do not use this site or other Rand McNally mobile devices or services in a way that distracts you and prevents you from obeying traffic and safety laws. Rand McNally makes no representation or guarantee concerning the accuracy of the content, route usability, traffic, road conditions or road construction projects, and you assume all risk in planning your route. © 2014 Rand McNally”

Consider using two websites for directions.  Let the customer know if the website gives more than one route and let them choose their preference.

Using two websites is time consuming, but it is a good way to confirm the directions are relatively accurate for both residential and business searches.  I did a search where I looked by address and by the name of the business, in Google Maps.  I was taken to two different locations.  Using a second website helped to confirm which set of directions were correct.  Using Google’s Street View to look at the location gives you an idea where the directions are taking the customer.  In the situation where the search stopped in two different locations, with Street View, I could tell the wrong directions would leave the driver outside of town in the middle of a highway.

Often, websites will give two or more routes to the same destination.  If multiple routes are given for the same destination, tell the customer, and give them a brief description of the differences in the routes so they can make the choice as to how to get to where they’re going.

Looking for a common destination?  Struggling to find a building within a larger complex?  Search by name of the business or building, as well as address.  Consult the business website for directions and maps.

Google has a nice feature that allows you to search by building name.  This is very helpful when searching for a particular building in a campus setting.  For instance, Washburn University has one address, and the directions to that address end in the middle of campus.  The law library is not near the center of campus.  I did a Google Maps search for Washburn University Law School, as the law library is in the law school building, and got directions directly to that building.

The other thing you should do if you are looking for a non-residential address is to check to see if there is a website for the business.  You can often find excellent instructions and maps.  Washburn University, University of Kansas Health Systems, and the Kaufmann Center have great directions and maps, including campus maps.  By going to the Lyric Opera website, I found the information on performances and their business office.  If your customer is in the building, show them where to find relevant information and help them print it, or print it for them.

Make sure you tell the customer which websites you consulted and which website you gave the instructions from. Remind the customer they can call the library if they have additional questions while traveling. 

Internet access provides convenience and choices.  Online direction websites have made giving step-by-step directions to a particular address so much easier.  With the convenience come issues that require you to be aware.  Not all the websites are credible, and even the ones that are still make mistakesGoogle corrected the directions to a store that ended in the middle of the highway.  However, the correction would not have helped the customer on the day the directions were accessed.  In addition to the directions, we need to let our customers know website limitations so they keep their gas tank full, and their phone charged.

Remember: you can print a few pages of directions for customers for free from a service point.

Homework:  Find directions for three of the following locations to practice using the three recommended websites.  Use various starting points, and practice printing the directions/map.

  • Kansas City airport
  • St. Louis City Museum
  • Lawrence Douglas County Courthouse
  • Topeka RowHouse Restaurant
  • Manhattan K-State football stadium
  • Denver Mint
  • Topeka Post Office that is open until 7pm
  • Topeka Washburn Mabee Library

2 thoughts on “Information Superstars: When Customers Need Directions

  1. Debbie Stanton on said:

    I had never come across the directions to buildings before. I’m glad they’re adding that capability because that’s always a really stressful situation (Where do I park? Will I have to walk 5 blocks to get to the right clinic? Etc.!). Thanks Susan!