In business, first impressions are everything. If you fail to meet or exceed a customer’s initial expectations, there is a strong likelihood that you will miss the sale. It therefore makes sense to look at every touch point of your business from the perspective of a potential customer to overcome any potential problems.
By putting your customer hat on, you’ll be able to see the areas of your small business that require work. The list below details ten common small business mistakes that if not handled correctly, cause roadblocks for customers. If a business owner fails to consider these areas, a customer’s confidence in their business is questioned. If a customer sees that you are not maintaining your business in one particular area, chances are your other areas are below average as well.
Take careful note of these ten areas and ensure your small business excels in every one.
Ensure the Path to Your Door is Neat
When customers are walking to your door, do they need to beat back a jungle? Are there boxes scattered beside a nearby wall? Can customers see a pile of junk? These are all scenes that negatively impact on your business’ image. Ensure that the front path to your business is impeccable. Sweep it in the morning and at night. Clean away any junk as soon as possible. By staying vigilant you can ensure your business is as welcoming as possible, setting the standard for your products, services and future interactions.
Ensure Your Signage is Still in Pristine Condition
Take a look at your signage. How is it holding up? The way a business treats their signage speaks volumes about how it values itself and its customers. Over time, nature will sap the shine and colour from every sign. This is such a gradual process that you won’t even notice the colour fading. Before you know it your faded signage has been up for months or even years without you realising it’s second rate. You must realise that every sign has a use by date. Either take photos of your signage every few months to compare, or ask a trusted advisor whether your signage is still in pristine condition. If you fail to upkeep good signage, your first impression will be second rate.
Ensure Your Windows are Clean
Having fingerprints on your windows is a no no. Dirty windows give the perception of a dirty business. Ensure you set up procedures to regularly clean all your windows and door handles. Customers won’t notice how clean your windows are. But if they are dirty, they’ll notice instantly.
Don’t Conduct Cheap Repair Jobs
Fancy yourself as a bit of a ‘Do It Yourself’ hero? That’s fine at home. However this attitude usually won’t cut it in the world of small business. If you seek a quick fix with some duct tape or A4 paper, the results will reflect poorly on your business. Ensure all repairs and changes are implemented professionally and with a quality finish. Don’t just cross out unwanted items on your menu, reprint the whole menu. Don’t personally amend your opening hours signage, have them redrafted. You need each customer to be assessing the quality of your products and services, not why your number ‘6’ is a different font to the rest of your sign.
Ensure You Have the Right Lighting
The lighting in your business must reflect the mood and ambiance of your brand. Some natural light is generally preferred, as this gives your business a visible organic connection to the outside world. Plus natural light is often more effective. Bright natural light is often preferred in stores with large product ranges, so customers can read all the necessary particulars. Dimmed lighting is preferred in businesses that wish to entice a relaxed mood, such as a massage parlor. Ensure your business has lighting that will enhance the experience for your customers.
Ensure Your Business Smells Appropriate
Did you know that smell is the strongest trigger of memory? There is a whole science behind how a store should smell to encourage people to either spend more time browsing, or buy more items. Obviously, the best smell will vary between different business categories. But one thing is for sure – an offensive smell will negatively impact the buying experience for your customers. Yes that’s right, the way your business smells could cost you a sale. It is critical that you control odors in your business. This includes odors from machinery, food and staff. Create a barrier for smells by regulating usage, places and times.
Ensure Your Bathroom is Clean
At home, when visitors pop over unannounced, the phrase ‘Can I use your bathroom?’ strikes fear into our bones. You immediately wonder if your bathroom is clean or if there are adequate supplies. The last thing you want to do is offend a friend.
And it should be that way in your business too. You bathroom area must be kept clean, stocked, private and smelling perfect. Customers aren’t enthusiastically volunteering to use your bathroom, they’re using it because they have to. You need to ensure their experience is as pleasant as possible. Set a bathroom inspection time at regular points during the day. I prefer first thing, at lunchtime then at the end of the day. If possible, have a separate staff and customer bathroom so that staff can access facilities without delay.
Ensure Your Apparel Matches Your Business
Do you wear a uniform or casual clothes? It’s your call. Just choose clothes that reflect your small business personality and customer perceptions. As always, first impressions are everything, so ensure that your clothes are in good condition, clean and don’t stink of sweat. The clothes you wear should effortlessly blend into your storefront, making you a clear store native. If you wear a poor choice of clothes, customers will be critiquing your outfit at the expense of considering your products and services. Again, you want the eyeballs and minds of your customers to be focused on your products and services, not on your fashion sense.
Ensure Your Temperature is Appropriate
When setting the thermostat inside your business, your customers come first and your staff come a close second. Ensure that the temperature you set is appropriate for the circumstances and the duration of time they will spend inside your store. If you set the right temperature, your customers will happily spend time in your store. The more time they spend, the more purchases they make.
Ensure Your Background Music is Appropriate
I bet you have a favourite musician. I bet you play their music at home or in the car. Before you play their music at work or on hold, ask yourself whether their music is appropriate. Does it reflect the values and ambiance of your business? Chances are it may not. It’s therefore essential to make music choices that will reflect the customers you are targeting. Do not leave the music jukebox up to your staff. They will likely choose songs that they love and in the process possibly alienate your customers. Ultimately the music and the volume you play it at should work in harmony with all the other senses of your business.
By combining a plan to address these ten key areas with a sensible small business plan, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance for long term success.