Competition Customer service Management Marketing

How to send an unspoken quality message to your customers

As you walk down the street in this trendy, somewhat pricey shopping area, you can’t help but notice the attention that has been paid to some shops.

One, an upscale women’s clothing boutique, simply exudes class. Fine furniture, meticulously chosen fonts and signage that screams “I spent a lot of time and money to get this just right.” Just the right music, carpet, merchandising and only “those” lines of clothing and accessories.

But I’m a guy, so I’m immune to all that stuff, right? I pay attention to bathrooms, but for different reasons. It’s a little secret that no one knows. Until now:)

Bathrooms say a lot about a home, much less a store.

When you walk into the restroom of this boutique, it’s warm (figuratively and literally) and inviting. A lightly scented candle (probably not condoned by the fire chief) burns on a small table next to a small vase of fresh flowers, at the vanity (not just a sink), couture soaps (do NOT wash with these<g>), makeup lights, and way over the top upscale towels just get you started. Clearly, they realize that selling the store is as important as selling the merchandise, to this clientèle.

Later, I slither into a nice upscale bookstore and coffee place around the corner.

Again, it’s laid out to be like comfort food. Warm, inviting and sorta chocolately. A “thirdplace” that I’d want to hang out in between work and home. While the restroom is not nearly as focused on being congruent with the rest of the store as is the boutique’s, it isn’t bad. Spice, baskets, a generic platform sink (not a leftover from 1973), and a few current issue magazines. Some room for improvement, but not a negative. Often, these are rather barren. Functional, clean, but not inviting or congruent with the rest of the store. This one is a little better than that.

Another door or two down, a small cafe. For the most part, the cafe decor and “inviting factor” fits in with the rest of the shops around it, as it should.

But then, there’s the restroom. A generic $49 Home Depot sink. Dirty, urine-infused footprints on the floor. Cheapest possible see-thru toilet paper. No mirror. Blower hand dryer. You’re only here long enough to take care of business, and if you’re the woman of the house – you might never come back. I can hear her saying “That was gross” from here.

Why? Because you naturally wonder if they keep the kitchen like they keep the bathroom.

To steal a line from a few elections ago: “It’s the bathrooms, stupid.”

Little, almost-effortless details mean a lot.

Quite a few women I know will cross their legs and put themselves through pain to avoid a convenience store or gas station restroom. The reasons are somewhat obvious. Many of those restrooms appear they haven’t been cleaned since 1957. How much does that cost you? Sure, some will come in, do their thing and leave. But how many will stop at your place and grab a Diet Coke and a pastry, and maybe some gas – because they know your bathrooms are always clean.

Word gets around. Maybe it earns you an extra 10 visitors a day. What’s that worth? If they drive my Suburban, it might be $125 in gas and a Diet Coke. Each.

Some store managers seem to understand this perfectly. Refreshingly so earlier this month in the Columbus, MT Town Pump (a Montana convenience store chain), where the restroom was the proverbial “clean enough to eat off the floor”. Ok, maybe that’s pushing it a bit, but *amazingly* clean for a truck stop, gas and go kind of joint. On 2nd shift, at 1030pm. Not exactly expected.

Light years ahead of a nice, upscale cafe in a fancy shopping area.

Send an unspoken quality message to your customers. You can do with with fresh flowers, minty-fresh floors, or urine-soaked footprints. Your choice.

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