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Recently, my 8 year-old son and I were in a local Asian restaurant and he looked around and said, “This is a really nice place.” We were in the Men’s Room. That is not always the case. What is a restaurant saying to its patrons when the restrooms are dirty and disgusting? I think it sends the message that this business doesn’t really care about its customers. Tom Peters writes in The Little BIG Things (HarperStudio), “It’s All About the Restrooms! A sparkling restroom with family photos in a small restaurant in Gill, MA shouts ‘We care.’

The devil—and a culture that demands EXCELLENCE—really is in the details!”

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There are a lot of times when the physical spaces or visual representations of a company online, in print or in person are a slap in the face to the very customers that the businesses seek to attract. Poorly designed websites, incomprehensible instructions, illegible logos and sloppy communications run amok in businesses that say, “the customer comes first.”

In a blog that went viral, disgruntled customer—and graphic designerDustin Curtis expressed his feelings about American Airline’s website as, “I would be embarrassed–no ashamed–to have a website with a customer experience as terrible as the one you have now.” He went further and stated, “Your website is abusive to your customers.” Curtis clearly articulated how a bad website design can reflect the wrong message to a customer. (So much so, that American Airlines subsequently revamped its website!)

For many organizations there is a huge gap between the good work that is produced and how it is communicated to your public. Many years ago we were working on a new design for a printing company and when we met with the sales force we found out that they did not like to hand out their business cards. “They’re embarrassing,” said one of the salesmen. When a salesman does not want to hand out a business card you have a problem. If communications are sloppy and the websites don’t work properly the impressions pile up that this organization does not have its act together.

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Take the time to plan your design and messaging. Review the instructions and navigation of your website and select images that really matter to your audience. That’s how you show that you care about them. How you handle the visual marketing for your company, products or services defines your relationship with your clients. It’s not rocket science to clean the bathrooms or replace the broken tiles, and yet why are there so many dirty and disgusting bathrooms out there?