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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bathrooms That Floor!

It's time to consider the Bathroom Blogfest from the flooring store perspective. This is the real deal from dedicated professionals within the industry!

In case we haven't yet firmly established that women's expectations of and appreciation for good public bathroom experiences are HIGH, consider these reports from our Wear-Dated reps.:

Dana shares the following: "I have a chain here in St. Louis, where the stores are, for the most part, so dirty, cluttered and outdated, I haven't even gone into the bathroom. I don't know about you, but I can tell by the store appearance if I even want to use the bathroom." And, if she were in consumer mode, she would probably not want to shop there either!

Dana continues her report: I stopped at Advance Carpet One in St. Peters. As I walked toward the restroom, I immediately saw the male/female restroom sign. My first impression was "oooooh....the boys use this, too!" I opened the door and what a surprise! Since I have now been in the flooring industry for ten months, the first place my eyes went to was the floor. It was very clean with a beautiful rug runner.....and you could tell it had just been swept/vacuumed. Then I noticed the sink and how clean it was......and a box of tissue! The toilet said "don't be afraid to have a seat," and the room also smelled very nice.

When I left the restroom, I told Larry Crouch what a nice facility they had and how it was in the minority for any retail showroom. I also told him that as a female, it really says a lot about their concern for the customer. He then showed me the refrigerator and how it was totally full of water, soda, diet soda, etc., because if women/men are taking the time to shop his store he wants them to have a beverage and relax while they shop. He then told me that everyday he walked the showroom first thing in the morning and sprayed a room freshener because he knows the "ladies" really appreciate that. Being that I am still in consumer mode, I thought to myself, if he takes such good care of his "house," I would be very comfortable having him/installers inside my home knowing they would show the same concern and respect for for my dwelling as they do their own. WOW!!!

Robin was really skeptical about the Bathroom Blogfest. But, when she brought up the subject with her Mohawk mill rep. [a man], they both talked about the positive perceptions that flooring stores with nice bathrooms create! She adds: "As we were talking about it we both realized that at least subliminally, we really appreciate the stores where we feel most comfortable. The bathroom is a big reason for our comfort. "

She thought about the stores she visits most often [and the ones generating more volume in the marketplace] and realized that their bathrooms all have beautiful tiled floors and walls, fancy pedestal sinks, flowers, candles... Robin's favorite is Touchdown Carpet in Marlboro, MA. It sure sounds like success in the marketplace is closely linked to how positive a retail experience you can create throughout your store and including the bathroom!

Brenda mentioned a really neat bathroom in Flooring Fashions in O'Fallon, IL. In this store, the bathroom features heated ceramic tile, complete with a heated ceramic tile bench and grout that glows in the dark acting as a night light! Very cool. This store realizes that even the bathroom represents selling and display space.

Greer mentions that she and her mill rep [a woman] created a "top 10" list of dealer bathrooms and strategically planned their day to hit a top 10! They love dealers who have not only soap, but also lotion at the sink. [So much for thinking that soap was a given!]

I've saved the best for last because I am so impressed with this carpet store owner's focus on the consumer and the retail store experience. I spoke with Claudia Smith, owner of Aggieland Carpet One in College Station, TX. Claudia and her husband Ron run an amazing flooring operation in a truly beautiful store!

At first, Claudia said their bathroom wasn't anything special. I probed and realized that I had hit pay dirt!!! This is the third year in this location, and the bathroom is due for a makeover. Aggieland redoes its bathroom approximately EVERY YEAR! That's right! That's how seriously the bathrooms are taken!

Claudia explained that the bathroom is the one space in the store most like a home environment. It is where a whole design concept can be carried out from floor to ceiling, to countertop, to fixtures, to the walls. It's the best place to display the quality of installation work and the range of products that Aggieland offers. It is part of the overall retail environment, a part of the shopping experience, with the added benefit of being more home-like.

Pleasant smells are critical, particularly in the bathroom. In the winter, Claudia likes to use spices, and in the summer, citrus. The bathroom, she says, sends a message not only to the consumer about the quality and workmanship that Aggieland offers, but also to her employees that they are valued and play a critical role in delivering the best consumer experience possible. Thank you, Claudia and Ron, for being so committed to creating an amazing experience!

A woman's touch goes a long way! Many of the Wear-Dated reps. report that stores owned by women or dominantly staffed by women make a big effort to deliver store and bathroom experiences that are not only meticulously clean and functional, but also deliver nice touches and sometimes even fabulous attention! And consumers respond accordingly!

Now, for those of you who aren't able to easily refurbish or redo your bathrooms, don't despair! First, some words of wisdom from Dana: I visited another store with a dedicated ladies room. The sink was somewhat dated as was the tile, but.....it was clean and smelled great! Not only did it have a room air freshener (I don't know if it was a mist or solid), but there was also a can of air freshener. The sink had no standing water and was shiny and the toilets, although the seats were old, you could tell were clean. Overall, I was very comfortable using the restroom. Old bathrooms are like antiques, per my mother, as long as they are clean they can still be useful.

And, second, stayed tuned to the rest of the Bathroom Blogfest as you can be sure that we will be sharing tips on how to make the most out of what you have! Consider, too, asking our Wear-Dated reps. for their suggestions.

It's been a busy day! The latest Bathroom Blogfest ‘06 contributions are:

+ Susan Abbott at Customer Experience Crossroads has just posted Place and Process in the Ladies Room.
+ Reshma Anand at What I Do For A Living has posted Bathroom Blogfest : Would you put your money in your bathroom?
+ Jackie Huba at Church of the Customer has posted The Great Bathroom Blogfest.
+ Maria Palma at Customers Are Always posted Bathroom Blogfest Day 2 and Bathroom Blogfest: Shouldn't Employees Know to Wash Their Hands?.
+ Sandra Renshaw at Purple Wren posted What About Electric Hand Dryers? and Ladiesrooms Need Fresh Air and Update on Bathroom Blogfest '06. You, go, girl!
+ Stephanie Weaver at Experienceology posted Let's Not Forget the Mensroom. [Stephanie, I was sent the 2nd photo, too and I'm told that the photo is of a NY law firm loo! Makes the communal facilities from Ally McBeal look pretty tame.] Also, check out A Captive Audience.
+ Linda Tischler at Fast Company's blog FC Now posted Today's Good Citizen Award: Starbucks. Linda, absolutely! Starbucks is my office when I'm on the road, and I gratefully rely on their facilities [and their venti skim lattes].

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