This photo is a powerful symbol of service invisibility. Here’s the back story. Luxury hotels of yesterday were concerned about protecting guests’ privacy. Housekeepers never wanted to disturb. During the wee hours of the morning, housekeepers leaned a broom straw against the bottom of the guest room door. A straw in place signaled the guest was in the room; knocking on the door to clean the room only happened if the straw was disturbed. It seemed awe inspiring to guests to return to their freshly cleaned room without ever having experienced the intrusive knock on the door.

In some ways, the flashing-alarm system restaurants now use to alert guests their table is ready is a form of Invisible process. Before, customers had been captive in the waiting area or had to keep checking with the hostess to find out when their table would be ready. Today, smart hospitals use the same type of flashing gadget to let patients know the nurse or physician is ready to see them.

USAA uses Invisibility in its system for capturing all customer correspondence and making it available to any call rep. It eliminates the need for customers to be passed around to find someone who knows how to help them. A large hospital experimented with a system whereby patients were given a plastic card to insert in a card reader in the parking lot before an appointment. It signaled the computer to find the family member on the card that had the appointment and automatically generate the admission paperwork.

Who enjoys seeing imperfections or unpleasantries? One grocery store placed a large graffiti board in front of a part of the store being renovated. Instead of customers noticing the dirty clutter of construction, they enjoyed adding their two cents worth to the board.

Another grocery store had a water pipe burst, leaving a giant hole in the side of the building. Quickly, the florist department moved its largest potted plants in front of the hole. Since it was Christmas time, they put out a large container of inexpensive ornaments and asked customers to help decorate the “trees.” The pipe was repaired after the store closed for the night.

The primary payoff of Invisibility is that it makes service feel totally seamless. It frees up servers to deal with customers directly instead of being tied to administrative processes that frustrate both the customer and the server. Where along your customer’s service trail are there negatives or nuisances that could be hidden or disguised? How can you make service seem simple and seamless?