Peeling paint, overflowing rubbish bins, dirty windows or faulty fluorescent lights – could they be holding you back when it comes to customer interest?
If you are worried you’re not attracting enough customers then it may be time to put down the sale tags and take in the “ambience” of your business.
While you have been looking to dwindling product range or price increases for the lack in sales, it could be that peeling paint and dirty front windows are part of the reason why sales are decreasing.
Depending on how long you’ve been in your current premises, you may not realise just how much wear and tear your “bricks and mortar” building has endured.
As a small business owner, you have probably spent many hours in your shop and have become accustomed to its appearance. However, what may seem “normal” to you may be perceived as unprofessional or un-kept to your customers.
First impressions count
According to research, a customer’s first impression of your business is established within two to 30 seconds and once a negative perception or impression is created, it is difficult to reverse.
Potential customers will already have an opinion of your business before they walk through your doors. It is essential the first impression you present is positive.
Customers will also base their opinion of your business on their perception of a number of external factors. The exterior of your building, the car park, outdoor lighting and signage all tell your customers something about your business.
Consider how your business is perceived by customers and make the effort to rectify any possible pitfalls.
To put your best image forward, you should consider the following:
Car park: A customer pulls into your car park, opens the car door and steps right on a dirty nappy. The customer is back in the car and driving away. You have just lost a sale. It is likely customers will come in contact with your car park first so if it is your responsibility, make sure is in a good condition or speak with the property manager about it.
Exterior buildings: Is the exterior of your building clean and well-maintained? Peeling paint may indicate the business cannot take care of itself. As cracks appear and paint begins to fade, so does your image. Consider painting your exterior every four to seven years. Trim can be repainted at a less expensive price every two to four years to extend the life of your exterior decor.
Select your paint colours carefully. Colours should be inviting and have a positive effect on people. Various shades of grey, for example, when combined with other colours convey authority and trust. Select colours for your exterior that convey the message you wish to express.
Graffiti: If graffiti is a problem in your community, try to get rid of it as soon as possible. In some cases, leaving it only encourages more of the same behaviour. It can be an expensive task but worth the investment. There may be neighbouring businesses which may also chip-in to help pay for its removal. Graffiti can portray the wrong image to potential customers and immediately casts aspersions about the area in which your business is located.
What you can do
Other issues to consider include:
Windows: Customers don’t expect windows to be kept spotless every day. However, there is a certain level of cleanliness which can be maintained when it comes to windows. It is important that smudges, fingerprints, dirt and water streaks be removed as fast as they appear. This will show your business follows through and pays attention to details. There is nothing more off-putting than windows streaked with dirt and bird droppings.
Faulty lighting: When bulbs have blown replace them as soon as possible. Outside advertising lighting should also be monitored. It should not be left blinking and flashing if the bulb is on the way out. This could also put customers off. Damaged business signs also do not portray a professional image.
Rubbish bins: If you do not want rubbish left in inappropriate places try to make sure bins are present near your business. Do not, however, fall into the trap of failing to empty your bins on a regular basis.
Trolleys or hand baskets: How many times have you reached for a shopping trolley or hand basket only to find a dirty tissue or limp lettuce leaf lying in the basket? And what about grabbing a shopping trolley with a goofy wheel? If you are going to provide this type of equipment as part of your customer service, then it should be maintained and kept clean.
Company cars: Before a customer arrives at your business, he/she may see your company car. The way you present your company cars will also reflect on the type of business/company your run. Make sure they are as well presented as your business premises and your staff. You must portray a positive and powerful business image and have a dirty, littered company car will not do this.