Clean, modern restrooms are an integral part of any retailer's professional image. This important but often overlooked element either adds to or detracts from your store's overall image. If your restrooms aren't up to par, the time to upgrade is now. In this column, I'll review why first-rate restrooms are an essential part of your image. In my next column, I'll provide a checklist of items owners and managers often neglect when providing a ``public convenience.''
Recently, I had lunch at a Wendy's restaurant in southern New York state. When I visited the restroom, I was very impressed with its brightness, cleanliness and the notice posted there. A professionally manufactured sign mounted on the wall urged customers to alert the manager if they found the restroom was not spotless and well-maintained.
How about that—urging the public to critique that mysterious, forsaken, no-man's land known as the restroom!
Ok, Dan, people come here for tires and automotive services, not our outhouse capability. Why the big fuss over restrooms?
First, I travel constantly and extensively. Most restrooms I encounter in service shops and tire stores leave a great deal to be desired. Some are downright eyesores in otherwise-attractive facilities. If it's an embarrassment to the business, it's got to be corrected or your basic image-building chores aren't finished.
Second, in previous columns I have urged dealers to view themselves as retailing operations much like other retailers near their stores or on the town's main street. Then embrace the same successful techniques winning retailers use to build long-term success stories.
To look at it another way, show me a stellar retail business and I'll show you a business that's spotless throughout—including its restrooms.
Third, regular readers know I have badgered them to boost their business' image to the level where they look the part of the consummate professional. To the public, you aren't worth $100 per hour unless you look like you're worth it. When every single aspect of your business conveys a $100-per-hour image—and yes, that means the bathrooms, too—then your basic image-building chores are done.
Fourth, approximately 50 to 60 percent of the people purchasing maintenance and repairs at your store are women. Call me politically incorrect if you must, but my experience indicates that women are more easily disgusted or put off by filth than men are. It's a basic fact of life that we sell best in a positive selling atmosphere. If you accept that, then I hope some women don't need to visit the restroom before signing a work-order authorization!
Fifth, many tire dealers and repair-shop operators pride themselves on competing with quick-service oil-change specialists. They do this by creating their own version with a bay dedicated to fast oil changes. Others boast no-wait tire changes or quick flat fixes as part of their marketing scheme.
No matter how quickly you change oil or install tires, you still have relatively large numbers of people waiting. Whenever you have customers waiting, you need adequate restrooms, period! The days when people just didn't hang around a repair shop are long gone. A segment of your customer base will wait and you've got to be a gracious host while they're waiting.
Sixth, successful businesses succeed by exceeding expectations. Repulsing customers with disgusting restrooms doesn't define exceeding expectations. After all, does a hovel of a restroom say that you respect and value your customers? Or does it suggest you could care less?
Last but not least for this column, don't think I'm an ivory-tower know-it-all. I was a manager at two different high-volume service stations, one of which was at an exit of a busy interstate highway. My memories of maintaining those frequently-used restrooms are less than fond. Constantly inspecting and cleaning them were some of my least-favorite chores in those days.
However, it was rewarding when customers would comment that our restrooms were cleaner than those of the neighboring restaurants. Those compliments reaffirmed our efforts to do things that showed we gave a damn about the people spending money with us.