Walk the Walk(through)

At this time of year, there are two main types of businesses:

  • Businesses having their slow time (usually offices)
  • Businesses having their insanely busy time (usually stores, restaurants)

(There’s also a third type, not seasonally affected, but there are few of those.)

If you fall into the second category, print or bookmark this article and come back to it in a month, during your slow time post-holidays.

For the rest of you, twiddling your thumbs through your slow season, take this quiet time to do a walk-through assessment of your physical space. Evaluate these ten key areas:

1. Signage

Is yours fresh, eye-catching, positive, and clear? This includes exterior signage and interior signage. Can clients find your office? Can they find what they need once they’re in the building?

2. Displays

Are you highlighting points of interest to your customers with displays of brochures, books, recent projects, or success stories?

3. Lighting

Next to signage, this might be the most important visual element of your space. Exterior lighting—is your entry too dim to be inviting? This is important if you are open in the evenings, but is also crucial for gloomy daytimes. Interior lighting—are you creating the right mood, whether clinical, cheerful, romantic, busy, or restful?

4. Colors

Colors can create a mood just like lighting, and if we’re talking paint, your colors are the quickest, cheapest facelift available. Colors are not just on your walls, furniture, and flooring—think about your signage and displays, too. Make sure your chosen colors are saying “current” and not “dated.” Do you give a consistent color message to clients? Does your firm “own” your colors, the way orange belongs to Home Depot and brown belongs to UPS? Could your colors communicate more about the work you do?

5. Scratch ‘n’ dent

This is an overlooked aspect of many business interiors. I’m not suggesting you go out and buy all new furnishings, but look with a critical eye at edges and corners of furnishings, at walls and floors, and at artwork. Do you see chips, scuffs, tears, peeling, fading, or other signs of wear? Don’t think clients don’t notice, and don’t think they forgive it as a sign that you’re busy. This is not shabby chic, this is just shabby. If you don’t care about keeping your space in good repair it speaks volumes about the attention a client should expect from you.

I won’t belabor this point but at the very least, take this slow time to make your space scrupulously clean, and take a Sharpie to a few of those nicks. So many places don’t—you will outshine the competition!

6. Comfort

Maybe this is a very important aspect of your business (hotel, restaurant, doctor’s office), or maybe it seems less essential to you (bank, auto mechanic, grocery store). There are two types of comfort to consider:

  • Physical comfort—are customers warm (or cool), is seating adequate and inviting, are floors enjoyable to walk (or roll!) on or to stand in line on?
  • Psychic comfort—do you create a feeling of welcoming and privacy/ security for customers?

The body and the mind require comfort for customers to remember you fondly, stay long enough to complete purchases, and return in the future.

Do not follow the old anecdote about early McDonald’s restaurants using few, uncomfortable seats and an unpleasant green to encourage short visits—even many McDonald’s are positively plush these days!

Again, this need not take an enormous budget. A simple rearranging may make your space seem more pleasant, spacious, or private, and a few cushions can go a long way toward making stiff chairs more accommodating.

[The mechanic where my daughter and I can sit during an appointment if I haven’t got a ride out of there gets all my business.

7. Wayfinding

This is related to point 1, signage, but goes further. Your signage needs to tell clients how to get around, but the arrangement of your space can do a lot to direct attention and traffic flow, too. If you’ve ever been in a grocery store where the arrangement seemed illogical, you’ll know what this means.

Make sure getting around your place is as logical and hassle-free as possible. Don’t make your customers think!

8. Transaction space

The area where clients complete a transaction with you is critical. Usually this is a cashier’s area; it may also involve making a follow-up appointment. Make that last impression count with an area that’s as unhurried and uninterrupted as your space allows.

9. Scent

Come in to your shop or office with a fresh nose. Does your space smell good? Or does it just smell? Although not a visual aspect of your space, scent is a very powerful motivator for customers, and one that is well worth considering as you do your evaluation. Remove the bad scents, and consider adding good scent, too.

10. “Feel”

This is tough to put your finger on, but if you’ve been through all the other points of this evaluation, looking at your space as if you’ve never seen it before, you probably know by now—are you creating a mood that aligns with your Vision for your firm? If I think “discount” when I enter your space, is that what you intended?

Does your space say hip, funky, stodgy, stale, fast, slow, cheap, pricey, busy, relaxed, cutting-edge, traditional, efficient? Except stodgy and stale, these are all legit choices for some firms. Just make sure the feel is intentional.

Bonus evaluation point:

Not technically part of an interiors walkthrough, but while your eyes are open, look at your staff. Are they dressed and groomed appropriately for your business? A tune-up in this department can have a very dramatic impact on your Customer Experience, and on staff morale, as well.

Make a thorough walkthrough a yearly or even quarterly assignment. Viewing your space the way customers do is essential to meeting and exceeding their expectations, for your firm’s health and future growth.

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson