There was a time when a business premises simply needed to be practical. Enough room to accommodate customers, a worktop or desk over which to do business, and plenty of storage space (usually shelves) where stock can be easily accessed. But those days are most certainly gone.
Where once ample supplies and ready enthusiasm were the principal aspects businesses highlighted to win over customers, now more subtle (even subliminal) messages need to be conveyed the moment a customer walks through the doors. These messages can be delivered via a number of techniques, from the colour scheme and floor plan to the tone of voice personnel greet them with. You can offer visual feasts or spacious minimalism, but whatever your interior design and little touches you have, they must still leave the customer pleased, excited, confident and at ease – all at once.
Attracting modern consumers has become a science, partly because people are generally more sophisticated, and partly because the level of competition in the e-commerce age demands every minute aspect of your business name, service, attitude and the premises to be as close to perfect as possible.
Impressions Are Important
It’s one of the most used adages, but, let’s be honest, first impressions really do last. There is a tendency to believe that quality of service, meeting deadlines and overall general reliability are all-important, and many business owners still concentrate on these aspects. However, while they are certainly extremely important, developing the impression that customers have on a business is also important.
Ever try out a restaurant only to notice scuffed furniture and dirty floor tiles? Did you turn around and walk out again? Exactly. And even if you gave the place a chance and stayed for a sandwich and coffee, you probably marked it off your list of eateries you’d like to visit again.
The truth is that in every business sector, people have a choice, so staying ahead of the competition is as much about attracting new clients based on first impressions as it is providing services that completely satisfy their expectations.
Where can buildings have the most impact on business performance? A lot of research suggests that office design can have an impact on business performance, but this is just one aspect. According to a 2011 UK study on The Impact of Office Design on Business Performance, customer attraction and retention is one of 8 principal factors of business performance that office design can have – something that is referred to as ‘External Expression’.
True, the importance of ‘first impressions’ is greater in some sectors than others. Much like our restaurant example above, a hotel cannot expect to do well if it projects a negative impression. But customers entering a hardware store look for different things, so as long as the store floor plan offers decent accessibility to stock, a couple of cracked floor tiles is not going to raise an eyebrow.
So, what are the factors – or little touches – that customers look for when they enter a premises, which are set to leave them with a positive impression of your business? Well, there can be many, but we have put together a shortlist of 5 areas which you may want to sharpen up on.
Area 1. Your Business Entrance
Regardless what kind of business you have, the entrance to your business is what projects that first impression on prospective customers. Whether your business is street fronted, in a commercial complex or in a business park, your entrance and reception area must project the right image.
Some of the most pertinent questions to ask are:
- Is the exterior clean and clear of debris? If debris is not removed and area kept clean, it suggests a reluctance to do anything more than is necessary.
- Is the exterior neat and attractive or dreary or unkempt? A scruffy looking exterior suggests a lazy attitude towards corporate image.
- Are the windows and glass doors clear and smudge free? This is a basic cleaning aspect, so if glass surfaces are grubby, then it also points to laziness.
- Is the door in proper working order? Customers don’t want to have difficulty in opening the door.
- Is the interior clean? Again, a clean interior suggests genuine interest in maintaining standards.
- Is the reception, office or store area neatly laid out? If the floor plan is well thought out, then it points to your business ability to offer practical solutions.
- Is the interior attractive to the eye or need a new coat of paint? As with the exterior, the psychology of visual impressions can affect the desire to do business with you.
One aspect of the workplace entrance is the use of floor matting. Again, this might seem like a small issue, but a mat is both practical and decorative, and when branding is added then it offers an extra dimension in your business marketing and promotional campaigns.
Practical – Placing floor mats just inside the entrance doorway is the most effective way of preventing wet floors and, therefore, protecting visitors from suffering injury from a slip or fall. This makes them a health and safety matter, so it is advisable to use them anyway. More than just adhering to regulations, however, it also intimates to visitors that you care about them, that your business is responsible, forward-thinking and value clients, customers, visitors and staff alike. Check out the range of Alsco Mats slip-resistant mats and Evolution Eco Mats.
Decorative – The days when a floor mat was simply grey or black are long gone. Today’s range is available in a variety of colours and textures. This is mainly down to the advances made in the textile industry, with different designs and shades available, but it provides the opportunity to make an impression with the very first step into your business premises.
Branding – Like most blank spaces, a floor mat has a huge potential in terms of branding and promoting a company’s image. Technological advances in Chromojet printing mean that practically any image – and often in considerable detail – can be printed onto a mat. This can be an intricate design, your company logo, or an elaborately designed welcome message. Increasingly, icon imagery is being used to communicate more simply and more efficiently with a younger clientele. See what Alsco Mats has to offer in Personal Mats and Message Mats.
Area 2. Seeing The Light
In an abstract way, this is about seeing the light about the importance of light. There has been plenty of research done into the impact that the choice of lighting has on a workforce, but the impact can be equally as positive or negative on customers too.
The 2010 Oxygens study into the working habits and preferences of Generation Y revealed that 61% prefer a natural and/or artificial lighting and 33% a half artificial/half natural lighting in their office. Science also reveals that light quality directly affects circadian rhythms, which dictate a person’s biological clock and influence things like melatonin secretion, cortical activity, and alertness. In poor lighting, the circadian rhythms are disrupted, causing a negative impact. For example, these rhythms influence the limbic system, which regulates feelings of happiness, sadness, anger and other emotions. Basically, the lighting a workplace is going to make a difference in what people think and feel.
Of course, applying the science practically is another matter. Obviously, it needs to tie in with your interior décor, but you may want to look at things like the amount of natural light in your reception and office area. With artificial light, the brightness and tone of the bulbs being used can have an impact, while the style of the light fixtures should complement the décor not stand out against it. But just keep in mind that when it comes to light, you certainly can have too much of a good thing.
Area 3. Remarkable Restrooms
It can hardly come as a surprise that your office washroom makes a really strong impression on clients, customers and visitors. Whether it’s a dripping tap or reams of toilet paper strewn on a wet floor, restroom hygiene and general neatness are hugely important. From a client’s point of view, if a business takes the care necessary to keep its restrooms well, it will surely take care of its customers.
Properly Supplied – failure to have an ample supply of consumable products to hand can be a cause of great irritation. There is nothing worse than discovering (at the crucial moment) that there is no more toilet paper, or having no soap at the sink to properly wash hands. Be sure to have plenty of things like anti-bacterial soap, toilet paper, paper towels, and seat sanitisers on hand.
Working equipment – most of the consumable products mentioned above need equipment to dispense them. But when they are stored in dispensers that do not work, it can be frustrating. Okay, in certain premises having a bottle of anti-bacterial hand soap by the sink might be enough, but you may want to fix a proper dispenser on the wall. The core idea is convenience, with hygiene products easy to get at and easy to use, so be sure that equipment is working properly, not least:
- Soap dispensers
- Towel dispensers (paper or roller)
- Electric Hand dryer
- Feminine hygiene bins
- Urinal sleeves
- Sanitary bins
Aromatic, Not Malodorous – another obvious aspect that you should pay attention to. There can be fewer put-offs than when you enter a restroom only to be hit with an offensive smell. There are several moves to make to ensure a pleasant aroma meets everyone who uses these facilities. General cleaning products come in a variety of refreshing or natural smells, from forest pine to mountain breeze, and proper ventilation can help keep the area relatively fresh feeling. But you should offer something extra too, like odour elimination sprays, which can provide a timely jet of refreshing scents.
Add Some Character – with a little effort, a clean and functional workplace restroom can become an impressive restroom with a character that matches your business image. You could invest in some artwork for the walls, though this depends on the amount of space you have. Colour the walls behind the sink mirrors, whether artistic or matching your corporate logo, and add some pot plants to open up the space and offer a natural element. You could get a little adventurous with the choice of pot too, like a brass vessel for that earthy yet classy feel. Check out Instagram and Pinterest for some ideas.
Area 4. A Touch of Greenery
We have already mentioned it for the restroom, but a little greenery anywhere in an office does a lot of good to a business’s image. Research has shown that having some green fringes – or at least a potted plant or two on a desk – can make people feel more comfortable and relaxed, improve air quality, and improve productivity and cooperation levels. According to a 2010 study by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) revealed that plants contributed to reductions in tension/anxiety (37%), depression/dejection (58%), anger/hostility (44%), and fatigue (38%) in the workplace. While there is no research into how plants impact on clients’ impression, it’s logical that the sense of productivity, creativity and overall positive workplace atmosphere it evokes sends the right message to any customer.
Some of the larger businesses turn to office landscaping services to bring in an array of plants that require little attention, but offer all the benefits of an inspiring garden scene, but it should not take much to keep the job in-house. Just choose plants that require the minimum care, and appoint one staff member to maintain them.
Area 5. Something for Nothing
It seems like a cheap shot, but there is nothing wrong with providing the odd free ‘gift’ item to a client. We’re not talking about corporate entertainment here, so don’t worry about organizing free tickets to a show or a table at the best restaurant in town. No, we’re talking about offering customers a complimentary coffee or tea, bottled water or mineral, or have a bowl of mints on the reception desk they can dip their hand into whenever they want. How does this benefit your business? It just shows you care they are comfortable, and being taken care of. After all, it’s the simple things that make the difference.
Speak To Alsco
Making the right impression is never straightforward, but it is certainly not impossible. With many of the tips listed above, we at Alsco have been helping clients to maximize their image potential, whether it is in maintain a hygienically clean workplace restroom or providing branded floor mats for lobbies, reception and general working areas, or even expertly laundered table linen and uniforms.
For more ideas on how your business can make a positive and memorable impression on clients, talk to one of our expert staff. Simply contact Alsco either via the online enquiry form or by calling the branch nearest you.