As a graphic designer who's worked for a variety of businesses, large and small, I've been observing the "experience" I have when I go into a place of business, over many years. This is usually a determining factor in whether I want to frequent this place or not. Four senses are used when a person comes into your place of business – sight, smell, sound and touch. Companies who don't take these elements of human nature seriously, are missing a great opportunity to create a wonderful physical and psychological experience. Below are some things that you might need to take into consideration.
First Impressions Do Last
When a customer comes into your place of business what is the first thing they see? If you have a lobby or a waiting area, is it staffed or did it used to be staffed and now it's not? Are there comfortable chairs to wait in? Do you have nice art or your logo on the walls?
If there's a receptionist, is she super nice and friendly, but not over the top. This first face of the company is one of the most important people you hire. They must be super personable and smart. If you get any impression in the interview that they don't have confidence in themselves, you might want to keep looking. This person HAS to make a confident first impression. I know interviews make some people nervous, but so does a forceful person trying to get their way into your office.
If your lobby used to be staffed and now it's not, you should consider repurposing that area. One idea is to put in a drink and coffee station that invites people to help themselves. A TV can sometimes take the place of a human, but be careful with this idea. It might just feel strange in the space. Another thought is a monitor system that allows people in the company to greet you virtually. If cell phones are not used, you can also set up a nice area with extension numbers listed for the person you're there to see.
Let's talk about furniture. Your furniture in the lobby or waiting area needs to be fashionable, but also functional. If the chairs are too large, a small person might be uncomfortable sitting in them. And vise versa if the chairs are too small. A nice set of club chairs made out of leather will last the longest and show that you care about their comfort while they wait. If you decide to use a sofa, keep it simple and no throw pillows please! Not over stuffed and not too deep. Contemporary or classic is only determined by your interiors. If you hire an interior designer, don't just let them go crazy and make sure you like their style.
Now you need to consider the art or graphics you use. Spend some money on nice art or having your logo made into an elegant wall sign with a spot light on it. Be careful how far you take it though. Water fountains and built-in fish tanks are beautiful and impressive, but it might send out the message that you're too expensive and possibly overpriced. There needs to be a balance here. You need to know your customer and what they're comfortable with.
It's the Small Things That Matter
Bathrooms are often a forgotten room in businesses. As a woman, I always pay attention to the bathrooms in an establishment, especially in restaurants. If you're building, please pay special attention to several things: How do the doors on the stalls work and do they work? Are the toilet paper holders good quality that will last? Should you use toilets that flush themselves or by hand? Is someone in charge of keeping the bathroom clean and tidy on a regular basis throughout the day or night? Does the door open in or out? If you're in a place that already has bathrooms, you might want to consider up-fitting it to a higher level.
Bathrooms should be well thought out. The walls should be made with tiles that are easy to clean and at a height that won't allow the walls to be touched. The floor tile should have dark grout, The darker the better. Stains will happen in a bathroom and dirty grout is disgusting and impossible to clean over time. A dirty bathroom WILL leave a lasting impression on your customers. Trash cans should be easy to access and emptied often and sinks wiped down a few times a day.
Bathroom stalls are apparently a tricky business. If the doors aren't perfectly installed with the dividers, the door latch won't work – ever. If your builder does it wrong, make them redo it. Let them know before they begin that you expect it to be right. I prefer doors that look like doors and door hardware as opposed to the plain, swinging latch door. It feels nice and it looks nice. If you're just using what's there and you have latch doors, check them to see if they work. If they don't get them fixed.
Toilet paper holders come and go. Some companies install the large rolls and then decide that they don't want to keep that going, so they just set smaller rolls on top of them. Pick a good fit for you and stick with it. And of course keep them full at all times.
Hand-flush or motion-flush… I personally like the motion-flush, but don't like it when it flushes on me. Either is fine. A floor peddle is what should be used. I haven't seen one, so maybe you could invent it for me!
Exiting the bathroom should be a hands-free experience, and that's a very simple one. Make the door swing out and don't put a knob on it. Swing only.
So in closing, I advise you to do a walk-through into your place of business with your staff once a year. Give each person a form to fill out with things to look for and have them make notes on what they notice. Pretend you're the customer. Look at the ceiling, look at the floor. Is everything clean? Does something need new paint. Is the furniture old and dated and in good repair? Smell the air. Feel the furniture. Listen to the sounds. Endeavor to make your business as inviting as you'd make your home. Create an atmosphere that allows people to feel welcome through their senses. And if you succeed, you'll keep 'em coming back for more.