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August 2010
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Your signage is out of control

One day, I was approached by a team leader in a company I was responsible for the marketing for and she had a request for a new sign.  Apparently, a customer came in to pay her thousand dollar invoice and asked if she could use our washroom.  Now we needed a sign that told customers that we do not have any ‘public’ washrooms.  Our part time receptionist was not comfortable telling customers that they could not use our bathroom and therefore we needed a new sign.

Now I could have been Mister Niceguy, but my job is to give every company I work with the best marketing leadership I can provide and that didn’t relate in any way to providing this new sign.  I was not going to put up a sign that said anything of the sort and as a result I was now stuck in the middle of a fight with a Team Leader I had a lot of respect for.  She had promised our receptionist a sign and I wasn’t going to put one up so we were in a bit of a pickle, as they say.

The first reason I wasn’t putting up a sign takes me back to my first visit to Nordstom Stores, 25 years ago in Seattle.  I needed to make a long distance telephone home to Alberta, Canada and asked the clerk if she knew where I could find a pay phone. “you can use my phone” she said.  I explained that it was long distance to Canada and she said “that is fine, my phone works to Canada as well”.  She insisted I use her phone instead of inconveniencing myself.  Pretty smart – she kept me right there in the suit department instead of leaving and now I felt somewhat compelled to buy something. We can always come up with reasons for policies that protect the company in some way.

  • Phones and washroom are not for public use
  • No more than 3 items in a fitting room
  • Locked fitting rooms
  • 10 day return policy
  • Etc, etc, etc.

How many reasons can you come up with for a customer to decide they don’t want to do business with you? In my mind and in Nordstrom’s, that is what all of these policies were saying. Instead they used their best judgment and took good care of their customers. If your 70 year old customer, paying her thousand dollar bill wants to use your washroom because she drove across town to pay you – let her use the washroom.  Hell, have someone walk her to it so she doesn’t get lost wandering your halls.

That was my first good reason, but today’s advice is around signage not customer service. The golden rule for creating effective signage is:

One More Sign Is One Too Many Signs!

The human brain can only process so much crap at one time – Clarity is the key. How many things are you supposed to look at and read when you walk in to a store? Policies, sales, new products, menus, hours, payment types, return policies, branding – and now, you can’t use our bathroom either.  Every sign you put up reduces the effectiveness of every other sign.  Let me say that again: Every sign you put up reduces the effectiveness of every other sign.  The less things for your customers to read, the better.  Keep it simple, keep it clear and get rid of the dumb signs.   Have a look at the messages in your public areas and see through the eyes of your customers.

www.quickdeal.com          [email protected]          250-412-3500

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