I have been a business owner for 8 years. In all that time I have been through what you can say a roller coaster ride in managing my business. But I am also largely a consumer. And in both of my roles as owner and customer, one very important thing that I can relate to the success and growth of any business is the customer sensory experience. What do customers experience when they walk into your facility or when they engage with you?
I want to share 2 instances which has stuck to my mind as a customer. I was at my gym for a workout when I used their bathroom and found out that unfortunately their toilets weren’t clean. I came back 2 days after, only to find that exact same dirt lying there on their toilet. My otherwise good impression of their facility turned into disappointment and disgust because of that. And now something that I probably wouldn’t have remembered from that first experience has now stuck with me. Another instance was when I move into a new town and shopped at Price Chopper. The cashier generously offered to take my purchase out to my car. At first I thought it was just because of the oncoming blizzard but then after so many visits to their store, I realized that their employees were just genuinely really helpful to customers. I’ve had little old ladies offer to help me and my athletic and very capable family bring the bags out to the car. Both experiences had a profound impact on me as a business owner.
Your store is not just a sales channel. It is the physical manifestation of your brand so when customers enter your store, the kind of service you give them is important because it affects how they see your brand. It is the place where they engage all their senses so you must also provide a worthwhile experience.
The first thing customers notice when they enter is the smell. Now I own a Martial Arts School so people are barefoot and sweaty feet can give off an unpleasant smell. Which is why at our facilities we keep the place insanely clean with bleach cleaners to kill the germs. We also make use of candles with cinnamon scents that cuts through the smell. There are certain fragrances that would attract customers into a store and if you notice, most successful brands have a distinct smell. Its also very important that you and your staff have a pleasant odor especially for us since Martial Arts is a contact sport. Nothing will turn a customer off more than bad hygiene.
The next is the sense of sound. What sounds are affecting their experience? For a business like ours, we need to have that high energy music to keep people motivated and pumped for the activity. Now every business requires a different kind of sound unique to them. You just have to match your product or service with the sound atmosphere in your store.
The third thing is the sense of sight. Is your location aesthetically pleasing? Do you have good lighting? Is the place clean and is the display in an orderly manner? Now whether you are a business owner, a manager or an employee , you have to pay attention to little details. No dust or dirt is insignificant not to be noticed by your customers. You and your staff’s appearance also matters a lot because you represent your brand. Do you want your brand to be sloppy and messy? Or do you want it to be pleasing, clean and professional?
Now the sense of taste doesn’t really apply to our industry but if you own a restaurant or a coffee shop you wanna make sure the taste matches the overall experience. For the sense of touch, we make sure to wipe down the mats because we don’t want anyone walking barefoot and touching someone else’s sweat puddle. That’s nasty. Nobody wants that. We want to be able to provide a space where our customers can be comfortable to do their activities.
One thing I always say to my team is that they should be a thermostat, not a thermometer. You are setting the pace. When someone walks in to your business regardless of your industry you are setting their emotional experience. This may not be a sense per se but it is very important because the level of emotional response is gonna vary per industry. For us we want to provide their happy place where they are excited to go. We want to motivate them. We want to know everyone by name. Don’t make them feel that it is just another transaction. You should make your customers want to come back.