Commentary: Keep the bathroom clean or risk losing customers

Dec. 27, 2011

By Kimberly Nasief, president, Measure Consumer Perspectives

I recently saw an article online — "How the Restroom Symbolizes Your Whole Operation" — about sustainability and hygiene in the workplace, but it started me thinking about bathrooms in general.

While the article focuses mainly on efforts to be more sustainable and eco-friendly, I think we can take the concept of restrooms symbolizing an entire operation a bit further. Think about the last time you went to a gas station, and visited the restroom. I remember one, specifically, where the faucet was leaking, the toilet didn't flush completely, there was toilet paper and paper towels all over the floor. It seemed no staff member had bothered even to walk in, much less tidy up or sanitize, in weeks. While most businesses check these things every hour, I wonder if they had visited the restroom in several days.

You can imagine how excited I was when I left the bathroom to wander through the store and pick up a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and some Peachie-O's, grab a cold drink or one of those sticky-sweet coffee drinks. No, I got out of there as quickly as possible. Admit it: You've been there, and it's pretty hard to disagree that restrooms are, in fact, the window to a business's soul.

If your business is a restaurant or other foodservice establishment, it's even more paramount to keep up a spotlessly clean and even welcoming bathroom. If you're comfortable letting the most public — and yet private — area of your business get dirty and fall into disrepair, just think where your customers' minds will go where your kitchen and other behind-the-scenes areas are concerned? That may not even be the case. You may run the cleanest kitchen in the city. But you can rest assured that if you have a dirty bathroom, people will automatically assume your kitchen looks just as bad.

If you're a retailer, it's not even required that you offer restrooms, but if you're going to do so as a courtesy to your customers, you can at least do them a favor and keep them up. You might even go the extra mile and merchandise the bathroom with products you offer: lotions, scented candles, hand soaps and the like. Every single aspect of your business, from the parking lot to the porcelain throne, affects how your customers perceive it.

Keeping your bathroom clean isn't hard, but I'll tell you what is: Convincing your customers, after a negative experience in yours, that the dirty restroom they just visited is an exception to the rule. So keep it clean and let people start their visit with you on the right foot.

Kimberly Nasief been in the customer experience industry for nearly two decades. She is president & founder of Measure Consumer Perspectives, a global mystery shopping and consumer feedback firm.

Photo provided by evanrudemi.

Topics: Customer Service / Experience , Operations Management , Staffing & Training

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