How Not to Communicate with Your Customers
A business associate and I walked into a Mexican-American restaurant for lunch. Our eyes were met by a sign that read, "Banks don't make tacos; we don't accept checks." Next to the words there was a sketch of the owner with a scowl on his face. That first impression had already left a bad taste in my
mouth, and we hadn't even sat down to order our meal.
What the owner of this restaurant does not realize is that the message he is sending out to his potential customers is not positive. Actually, it's downright negative. What he's saying is that he doesn't trust his customers.
Is this the message he really wants to express to his customers? Probably not. But, he is expressing it.
Have you ever seen these signs posted in various businesses?
No Shirt-No Shoes-No Service
We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone.
Shoplifters will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Do not lean on the glass display counter.
These signs are not very inviting are they? It seems that the owners good intentions have gone astray.
A couple of golfing partners decide to try out a new golf course. They walk up to the clubhouse and are met with a barrage of negative signage: "Clean your spikes before entering clubhouse." "Shirt and shoes must be worn at all times." "Replace all divots."
What the owners of this golf course are doing is setting up a negative impression before the first ball is even teed up.
Why do these two examples of poor service in America exist? Because the owners are forgetting a very important truth. Charles Lamb, the great English essayist, said it best when he wrote these words, "Damn it, I like to be liked!" People like to be liked. They don't want to be told what THEY CAN'T DO. They want to be informed of what THEY CAN DO. They want to be made to feel that they are welcome.
A better way for the restaurant owner to inform his clients of the policy of not accepting personal checks could be to tell them what forms of payment he will accept. The sign could read this way:
"Your Visa, Master Charge, Diner's Club, and American Express cards are most welcome. Unfortunately, we do not accept personal checks."
A better way for the golf course to communicate its rules to customers would be to have the signs read this way:
"In order to provide you with a quality golfing experience we ask that all participants follow our rules of golf etiquette. Thanks for your cooperation! As always, it's a pleasure to serve you."
"We want to keep our clubhouse looking it's best for you! Please clean your spikes before entering. Thanks for your cooperation."
"In order to keep our golf course in top condition for everyone's enjoyment, please replace all divots. Thanks for your cooperation!"
"We want you to look your best! Please wear your shirt and shoes on the golf course and in the clubhouse."
The impressions a customer receives when he walks into a business or organization are merely a reflection of the owner's values and people skills and how he or she chooses to express them.
Most restaurants have a sign over the coat rack that reads, "Not responsible for lost or stolen articles." That's what the owner would like you to believe at least. What the sign is really saying is "WE DON'T WANT TO BE responsible for lost or stolen articles." Legally, they really are responsible; they just don't want you to know it. Most restaurants that I have surveyed report that they rarely have had anyone lose a coat or a personal belonging. So, my question is why put up the negative sign? Remember, we are trying to make this a positive experience for the customer. Negative signs do not help.
Earl Nightingale used to tell the story of a very popular restaurant in Florida that is still in business today. The customers observe a sign over the coat rack that reads, "Of course we are responsible for your belongings when you are a guest in our restaurant. So, relax, enjoy yourself, and have a good meal. Remember, serving you is our number one purpose. This restaurant has taken a very different approach to reminding its customers that they are important. In so many words, the owner is telling his customers that he cares about them and that he is responsible.
After one of my talks during which I mentioned this restaurant, an elderly woman came up to me and asked, "Where is that restaurant located? My husband and I live down there part of the year and would love to visit it."
How about the sign that appears on most business doors after hours. It usually reads "CLOSED." This sounds so cold and insensitive. It certainly doesn't sound very inviting.
A better idea might be to word it this way: "Unfortunately, our store is now closed: our next opportunity to serve you is 8:30 a.m. We look forward to seeing you."
How can a business avoid giving its customers a negative impression through its signage? First, call a meeting of all employees. Ask the question, "What policies and signs are there in our organization that penalize our customers?" Then take good notes. Ask your customers the same question. Then compare notes. Discuss with your employees how you can change or modify your policies.
How can you re-word negative signs so that they give a positive impression? You may not be able to make everything positive, but the changes you do make will be well-received by your customers. You will begin to set your business apart from the competition and make it a more friendly place to visit.
1. Three signs that you use in your business are:
2. Does each sign get the point across in a positive way?
3. Which signs need to be improved upon? How?
4. Is each sign really necessary? Which ones can you eliminate?
Have a question for Tom? Ask or leave a comment below!