Customer satisfaction, as any business owner or manager knows, is the most important factor to improving a bottom line and keeping customers coming back and spending more money and time with your company. You can improve your customer satisfactions through a variety of different methods and practices that tweak your staff training, pricing structure, follow up and more. However, sometimes it is important to remember that a customer’s satisfaction comes from the full experience, not just the services that you provide but the image with witch you present yourself.
People are visual creatures. We have evolved with two insanely high-definition optical inputs that help us navigate our surroundings. When a customer walks up to your establishment, they are already internalizing everything they are seeing and using this information to create a memory profile of your business, and their experience so far. All other senses do come into play as well and cannot be forgotten.
So, let’s take a step back for a moment and start to think about your business through the eyes of your customer. Let’s think about what some trouble spots are in businesses, and what things you might be able to improve upon, as well as simple methods and ways to fix these issues. Customers will reflect what they see visually back into your customer service experience. If they find something visually unappealing, they are more likely to recognize or look for faults in your services. Remember, we will be mostly focusing on talking about physical locations in business. If your company is mostly online, or a mobile business, that will be a story for another day.
Curb Appeal Matters:
A customer’s first impression of your business is not your prices, it’s not going to be your on-site representatives: it is going to be the outside of your establishment. Maybe, a customer might have seen a commercial, print, online or radio advertisement you posted, but, their true first impression begins outside of your physical location. Let’s mentally take a walk around your business and look around. If you have a parking lot start there. What is its current condition? Are there cracks that need patched, how are the lines in the spots; are they easy to identify? Curbstones are also important are they falling apart, or do you have any missing? These are all things that customers will notice as they pull into your lot for the very first time. If a customer is driving into your lot their experience will begin with parking, and if they are unable to easily identify where to park, or have to park a reasonable distance away and walk across your lot you could already be starting in the negative.
Do you keep your lot swept and free of debris? Have your employees sweep the lot daily. Cigarette butts, coffee cups, straws, candy paper and the like all pile up around your entrance and sidewalks that just begins to look very unappealing. Imagine walking into a store that has a clean sidewalk and lot versus one that has piles of trash in its corners and around the walls. Next take a look at any “lawn” type areas or flower beds, make sure they are weed free and bushes are maintained. Finally, if you have windows or window ledges make sure you wipe them down and keep them free of dust dirt.
The important thing to keep in mind is you have become “blind” to these problems. You walk through your lot every day on the way into your establishment and have already created a mental image. New customers, and even returning customers are seeing your store uniquely each time. Give them the best first impression you absolutely can.
Let’s Head Inside:
It shouldn’t need to be said that you should keep the inside of your business as clean as possible. At this point, as a manager or owner, you probably already have systems set in place for your employees or even yourself to vacuum, dust, sweep or whatever you need to do to keep the store looking and feeling great. However, we are looking at the spots that you might have gone blind to, but a customer looking around for the first time will most likely notice.
Start by taking a look in your corners, a really good look in your corners. Sure you sweep/vacuum around them all the time but grime will build up along your shelves and in those crevices. Children are amazing at finding the dirtiest places of store, and when a parent has to retrieve them they will definitely notice that those little indents and corners have never gotten cleaned. Make it a point to regularly (not every day) clean these areas. Walk around, spot check and make sure they get the attention they deserve. If you don’t pay attention to them some unlucky parent will have to deal with a child dropping a lollipop, the laws of physics say that that lollipop will find the dirtiest place in your establishment to fall, make sure it’s not that dirty.
We could go on and on about spots that maybe you didn’t think of throughout your store. The entire point of this exercise is for you to walk around and look at your area as if you were a customer looking for an item for the first time. However, it’s very important that you spend time on the spot most customers will see the longest, your counter area.
Customers are going to stand in line waiting to either check out, or talk to an associate for, sometimes, a while. During this time, they will be looking at the presentation of your employee’s while they deal with other customers, and the general area in front of, and behind them. Take a very long look at your counter or service area. Make a concerted effort to remove clutter like paperwork, employee bags, and piles of unfinished anything, put all of that in areas and get them away for your customer’s view.
You don’t do it often enough, but seriously, look up right now. What is above you, have you ever actually taken a look at the ceiling, the tiles, fans or light fixtures that hang above you on a regular basis. Most people don’t, but customers will and do. Think of when you walk into a new location for the first time. You scan your surroundings, you take it all in, notice the lighting, feel the temperature and just acclimate to the location.
So look up, take a look at the fans in your store, or vents (booth intake and output) dust can really accumulate around those points, and turn out to look really gross. Imaging you are in a coffee shop/café for a quick bite of lunch some refreshment and to do a little work. As you are standing at the counter, you take a look up at the menu and your eyes continue up just a bit further to the ceiling. You’re standing there waiting for your turn to come up so you are just looking around, and you notice some of the longest dangling dust bunnies you’ve ever seen. Then it dawns on you, “Aren’t they making my food back there?” This scenario is all too true for many places, be it café, full-fledged restaurant, or doctor’s office you never want your customer to get a feeling of being dirty. Next time you walk into your business look up, make a mental note, or better yet an actual list of what could get cleaned.
Take the walk around your building, inside, outside top and bottom. There are tons of trouble spots that you’ll notice. If you have employees, now would be a great time to recruit them to help out. Have them walk around and create the list of spots that could be cleaned or tightened up in some way. This creates a larger sense of team and allows employees to feel more empowered. For once, they are getting a chance to tell the boss something they want to change, or would like to fix, never underestimate the power of involving employees in even the smallest decisions.
An Active Looker is someone who takes note of what they are looking at, someone who is not necessarily looking for something in particular, but looking at the whole and noting details.
Practice and Train
Take the time to practice this skill. You will not get good at this overnight. Practice, walk into your store on days that you are not working and note what you see, hear, feel and even smell. These things are going to help you create a new mental picture of what you want to see when you are actually looking. Also, head into other businesses, it helps if they are businesses or locations that share similarities to your own. People always talk about the idea of active listening, well become and active looker. This would be someone who takes note of what they are looking at, someone who is not necessarily looking for something in particular, but looking at the whole and noting details, and how things come together. Become that active looker and take trips regularly to other businesses. Bring what you see and learn from these trips back to your own location to help create goals and objectives.
It can get overwhelming at first, but you do not have to begin a full scale implementation of everything you want to change immediately. Create a detailed plan of when you want to have certain items on your list finished, this will help you keep a positive outlook on the changes you are making, and also allow any staff you have to get behind the changes more easily. “Looking through the customers eyes” is a great skill to have, and can help you create the desired presentation you want you customers to experience.