Friday, February 4, 2011

What do “Customers” and, yes, “Competitors”, see when they arrive at your storefront and look in the windows?

I live in sunny (well, mostly sunny) St Petersburg, FL. The closest Starbucks to my house is only about 16 blocks away. Two doors down from Starbucks you’ll find a new location of one of the reprographics companies operating in the Tampa Bay Area marketplace.

I’ve always counseled my business associates and friends (and, when I was active in the reprographics business, I, myself, always took this into consideration) that “appearance” is important. What “customers” see (or don’t see) when they first arrive at your store does, more often than not, influence their “perception” of your company.

If your store is “perceived to be” neat and clean and not “cluttered up” or “disorderly”, then a visitor, I think, is going to get the impression that the service that your team gives is going to be organized, responsive, timely, blah, blah blah. Just to the opposite, if your store is “perceived to be” cluttered and disorganized, that could easily create the perception that the service your team gives is not going to be great. What I’m basically saying is that, even if your team is capable of giving (and later does give) great service, a customer who arrives at your store for the very first time is not going to know that, until he’s greeted and his order is completed. So, with all of the investments you make in people, equipment, SOP’s, work-flow process, etc., why let “appearance” cause the possibility of a negative impression, when it is so simple to solve that sort of thing?

I looked in the store window of this shop yesterday morning, and, right inside the door window, I could see a completed order (three large rolls of prints) and the invoice for that order. Since this company provides “POS” (point-of-sale) invoicing, the invoice contained descriptions of the services offered, units of measure for each service, unit prices for each service, and the extended totals for the order. I could also easily read the name of the customer to whom the work was invoiced. I’m retired and not a competitor, but, if I was not retired and was a competitor, is that the type of information that my competitor wants to hand me on a silver platter? I don’t think so. Perhaps what we “older” veterans of the reprographics wars need to do is to not fail to remember to tutor our younger team members on the “confidentiality” that’s important to, and necessary for, our businesses?

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