Customer service training often focuses on the human element of the first impression. Visual first impressions are equally important, and signage can play an important role. Signs can reinforce your brand and your customer service commitment or they can negate the very image you are trying to project. When was the last time you did an audit of the visual first impressions received by your customers?

Some of you are traveling to beach destinations this summer. We recently rented a condo at a beach property we had not previously visited. What was the visual first impression as I entered the elevator? A very large sign was taped to the elevator wall:

Please
Do Not
Hang
Towels On Balconies.
Is this message important? Yes, but wouldn’t a sign saying, “Welcome to The Beach!” generate a better first impression? The towel instruction could have be placed next to or below the greeting. (Notice that saying ‘Please’ wasn’t enough to make it a positive first impression!) After I got home, a friend asked if I would rent there again and I responded that I would not. When doing some introspection as to why I gave that answer since the condo itself was very nice, I realized that it was entirely due to my first impression of the property BEFORE entering the unit I was renting! No one greeted me, the entrance was not visually appealing, and the signage gave the impression they really didn’t think much of their guests.

A business manager who approached a billing company to discuss having payments processed saw the following signs on the door.

NO SOLICITATIONS WHAT SO EVER
NO CARDS, NO PAMPHLETS NOT ONE LITTLE THING.
WE APOLOGIZE TO OUR CLIENTS FOR POSTING SUCH A RUDE NOTICE BUT APPARENTLY SALESPEOPLE DON’T KNOW HOW TO READ.
As if that wasn’t enough, below that sign was another sign!

AND YES
THIS MEANS YOU!
What was the reaction of the potential client who had approached the door of this business for the first time? He was extremely offended by the signs, turned around, and left. He commented: “I and many on my staff are professional salespeople. This business would not be able to exist if other businesses were not actively selling their products and services.”

Not long ago, I visited a new nail salon. The business had obviously invested quite a bit in the building, calming neutral décor, massage chairs etc. Duct taped to a window was a sign on horrible yellow corrugated board with bright red letters that said, “OPEN SUNDAY.” The business image designed to create a quality and serene atmosphere was overcome by a sign that did the exact opposite.

I recently noticed a sign on the wall of a newly renovated McDonald’s above the drink dispenser: NO Outside Drink Refills! The sign aimed at a probable small percentage of customers who would abuse the drink system to me said, ‘You are really trying to rip us off!’ All the money spent on renovation, and this is the impression given to customers!

Here are a few questions to ask when doing a SIGN AUDIT of your business:

  1. What is the first impression I want to give my customers?
  2. What message am I sending with my signage?
  3. Am I making signage decisions based on the actions of my worst customers or my best customers?
  4. Will my signs generate future business?
If the answers to any of these questions are ‘NO,’ perhaps some adjustments are necessary!

Have you seen any signs that give a negative or positive customer service impression? If so, share with us in a comment on this post!

This article was originally published by Allen Speaks