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ARTICLESManagement & Service

IS YOUR ENVIRONMENT CUSTOMER FRIENDLY?

Have you ever experienced times when you repeatedly visited a particular establishment and wondered why you went only there and not elsewhere? The answer would be “Oh! I just go there to shop, I have always been going there to shop and that’s all. There is no ‘why’ about it”. But beyond what seems a straightforward answer there is something that draws you to a particular place. If you start to think, you might be surprised with the answers and their logic. They could be funny or weird but true. It happens to all of us without we realizing it.

In my early days I remember there were 3 grocers behind our residential area. They were all spaced a few shops away from each other. When I was asked to run errands I always went to the grocer in the center. The reasoning went thus – the first one was looking very dull and gloomy. The staff looked bored. The last shop meant I had to walk a little more. So the center shop was the right one. Also the center shop had more customers walking in and out. I wonder if all those customers thought the way I did? Interesting!

But today, I feel he had an environment that was customer friendly. He was better lit, the staff seemed more energetic, he would not mind if we nibbled from an item or two. Basically he was customer friendly.

A prime reason why customers are drawn to an establishment is because the environment beckons them. It is customer friendly.

Would you like to visit an office that seems as if it was hit by a tornado? How would you like a reception area with papers strewn around, stationary items all over, a receptionist wondering whether she should take the call first, greet you or push aside her manicure kit? Would you like to read a Jan’04 magazine or a 2 day old newspaper. Would you like to flip pages off an automag at your hairdresser or look up gossip columns while visiting your dentist? Situations like this normally disturb the mind set. While distractions are healthy in times of stress, the environment should encourage a customer’s visit.

WELCOME SIGNS

On entering an office the reception should give a feeling of welcome to the customer. It needs to be neat and tidy. Depending on your business and average time spent by customers, you could make it comfortable with good seating. Choosing the right kind of reading material should be fairly easy considering your line of business and profile of customers visiting you. It should be something that maintains his mood and holds his attention until he has been taken care. Wall hangings, posters should connect with your business and blend with the customers visit. Lights, plants and music help in bringing forth an organization. Finally a warm welcome from your receptionist will help give that human touch. Also remember, your back offices need to match the reception lest the customer gets an impression otherwise.

PARKING

An important aspect, keeping customers in mind, is having ample parking, as this has become a nightmare in most cities around the world. Parking plays an important role in a customer’s choice of who to visit. If you can understand customer apprehensions and put them at ease, you are one up on competition. Having ample parking space or providing valet parking saves him considerable time and anxiety. This in itself acts as a welcome gesture to customers.

TRANSPARENCY

While many businesses are secretive about their back office functions, having transparency and letting the customer see what we are doing develops trust. Opening your back office to customers is a sign of showing confidence in your operations. It say’s “we care and want to satisfy you. See for yourself.” The customer also develops faith in you. He feels he can rely on you since you have nothing to keep away. We see this more often in restaurants where food is prepared behind glass enclosures. This gives you the comfort that you will get what you asked for and in the manner you asked for. In fact, some resorts welcome guests to their kitchen to see for themselves how things are prepared. They want to impress on guests the standards of quality maintained. This gives customer the satisfaction that he is in the right place. Such transparency helps customers to recommend you to family and friends.

REST ASSURED

The final test in customer consciousness is the cleanliness, hygiene and maintenance of rest rooms, for this acts as a direct reflection on an establishment’s level of customer focus and care. Considering the amount of time spent, shopping malls, theatres, restaurants are few places where you may have to use the rest rooms. Maintaining an environment that is clean and hygienic comes as a big relief to customers who visit your establishment and comfortably spend several hours happily shopping. This also determines repeats and referrals, which in turn reflects on your business and growth. It is an important factor in customer care.

Remember, the first impression you give the customer has a lasting and permanent effect on business success. A pleasant environment helps customers form a positive image of the company and confirms his future relationship with the establishment.

In short, other than the human element, the environment should also welcome the customer and make it a congenial visit. The tangible and intangible, the emotional and material factors should all welcome him. It is possible that your customer may not notice nor appreciate the pains you have taken to create an environment for him but his subconscious will register and help draw him only to your establishment to conduct his business.

Maybe you could also lay the red carpet. After all he deserves it.

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Gangadhar Krishna

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