When you walk into an establishment (whether it’s retail, restaurant, office, entertainment, athletic or something else), how do you determine if that business is committed to customer service? Is it the number of employees available? Is it the way you’re greeted? Is it the design and layout of the place? Is it the ease of wayfinding? What is it that let’s you know if a business is really committed to customer service—of it they’re just giving lip service to it?

For me, the quickest and easiest test is the restroom or toilet paper test. Why? Because the restroom is a non-revenue generating section of the facility. Whenever you meet up with a revenue hog, they always consider the restroom to be “lost revenue,” which in their minds equates to “bad.” Therefore, they almost always decide to make the men’s and women’s restrooms as small as possible (i.e. as small as the code and inspector will allow).

They also tend to use as inexpensive a material as possible in the design and construction of the restroom. And finally, they almost always use cheap toilet paper (you know, the kind that’s either so thin you can see through it or the kind that’s so rough that sandpaper would be preferable—in other words, the cheap kinds of toilet paper that accountants like their clients to use—after all, it’s not generating revenue, is it?).

Exactly. Which is why the restroom and the kind of toilet paper a business supplies is the easiest and quickest test I know of for determining that business’ commitment to customer service. Why? Because if they’re willing to spend money on a non-revenue generating part of their business just because they want to treat someone (customer or employee) right—that says a lot.

For example, when you walk into a bathroom and you see nice stonework, what do you think? Or when you go to a theater and they have more than three stalls for the 750 people in the audience who all need to use the restroom at the same time during a fifteen-minute intermission, what do you think? Or when you see upgraded sinks and faucets? Or hand towels? Or nice vases with flowers that have been maintained (or at least dusted in the past week)? Or decent lighting?

Or the stalls are large enough to easily maneuver in? Or there are hooks on each stall door for coats? Or you hear nice music? Or it’s clean? Or deodorized? Or they use a decent Charmin-esque kind of toilet paper? When you encounter a restroom like that, what do you think? I’m guessing you think, “I matter to them.” And you’re right!

So if you’d really like to communicate to your customers that they matter to you, one of the simplest ways you can do that is to look at a few non-revenue generating areas of your business and think, “How can we say, ‘You matter to us?’”

From my perspective, I think the bathroom is one of the first places you’ll want to look. Why? Because all of us intuitive know this to be true. When you walk into a small, poorly designed, unclean bathroom with nothing but off-white paint on the walls and cheap materials used throughout, you know something about them (and it isn’t positive). The chances of you coming back again are very low.

But when you create a wow in the restroom, people start talking. In fact, the other day, my wife, and I, along with our youngest daughter visited an Arby’s outside of Richmond, VA (exit 86b) on the way to see our oldest daughter at her college (High Point University). Later on, I overheard our youngest (age 17) telling her sister (age 19), “You wouldn’t have believed this place. It was incredible. And the bathroom . . . it was so cool. It was clean. Had nice stonework. And the sinks were this beautiful stainless steel. It really looked great. Definitely not your typical fast-food restaurant bathroom at all!” In other words, this Arby’s was remarkable (she remarked about them) because she was wowed by the restroom (and the point about remarkability is that when we had to choose where to eat on the way home from High Point, where do you think we went?).

So are you ready to say, “You matter to us!” to your customers? If so, how? If you’re not in an environment where your customers come into a facility, that’s fine. What can you invest in that’s a non-revenue generator? What about free gifts after the sale has been made? Or hiring enough customer service agents? Or enhancing the design on your site? Etc.

However, if you’re in a business with a facility, use the list below to help prioritize your restroom improvement plan.

I. Step One – Low Cost Quickies

• Clean your restroom more frequently. Keep it spotless. (Note: All employees should help on this).
• Upgrade your toilet paper.
• Add a deodorizer on a timer.
• Add hooks to the backs of stall doors
• Tighten up screws on toilet seats so they don’t swivel
• Do an intensive cleaning of the floor

II. Step Two – Design

• Add or upgrade the mirrors
• Add baskets with paper hand towels
• Repaint the walls with color
• Add artwork to the walls
• Add vases and plants

III. Step Three – Refurbish

• Replace the tile
• Replace the fixtures, especially the sink and faucet
• Replace the lighting (and make sure there’s enough light to see the toilet seats?)
• Replace stalls (if necessary)
• Add a sound system and music

So what’s your next step?

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