In July 2009, Kermit Pattison of the New York Times reviewed a study by comScore and the Yellow Pages Association. According to Pattison, this study found “local search for businesses, products and services grew 58 percent last year and reached 15.7 billion searches, more than a tenth of overall search traffic.”
Today’s business owners may recognize the trend towards customers using the Internet to find information about businesses before they visit in person. This trend is one reason why business owners focus on developing their online presence. However, business owners should also consider how customers perceive their business during their first visit. This article suggests ways to view your storefront from the customer’s perspective.
When a customer walks into your establishment, he will draw conclusions about your company immediately. For example, he will decide if he feels comfortable in the physical environment. Your business establishment should provide adequate space, ventilation, furniture, and cheerful décor. People should feel welcomed upon entering the lobby, and they should not feel like they have stepped into a space as clinical as some poorly designed medical offices and hospital waiting rooms.
Customers might also decide what your employees think about working for your business based on limited interactions with front line workers. Choose your happiest and most customer-friendly people to work on the front lines. Many customer service employees begin by providing excellent customer service, but they lose their sunny disposition when they succumb to work stress. If front line workers are trained to maintain a positive demeanor during interactions with customers, they might still send signals of job stress to customers through nonverbal language. When customers think your employees are stressed, they might think twice about coming back to visit your business.
When business conditions are tough, you might forget to focus on working conditions for front line staff and how the lobby looks to customers. Your company must survive, but you must also improve the storefront. Find time to improve the physical environment by making small changes to the décor. Use flexible job assignments to relieve the stress of front line staff.
You can also view your business from the customer’s viewpoint by walking through the front door and deciding for yourself how comfortable the atmosphere feels. Another option is to hire mystery shoppers to provide feedback on how they are treated by front line employees. The most important thing is to not neglect the storefront. Although customers may find you online, their first visit to your business will convince them to become regular customers or to find another company.