Branding is one of the most important aspects of any organisation. Whether you’re a large multi-national, a small business or somewhere in between, it’s an invaluable tool that can help you stand out in an increasingly competitive world.
But while huge sums of money are spent on promoting a brand through traditional marketing and advertising, there are other considerations. Enter the humble toilet, the rarely discussed part of office life – and while it may not initially seem important, the washroom experience says a lot about your brand, and how you value your staff.
How can office facilities impact a brand?
Taking a step back, it’s important to remember that your brand is a promise to your customers. It informs them what they can expect from your products and services, and it’s defined by almost every interaction someone has with your company.
The key to reinforcing this message is clarity and consistency – any disparity between the various touch points of a company and its customer’s can obscure the message. As a result, the washroom facilities within a building are not simply functional necessities, but they should also reflect the brand narrative. Doing so presents a unique opportunity to deliver a great (and consistent) experience between your customers and your brand.
For example within the B2B industry, glossy marketing materials may help entice a potential client to your premises for a meeting, but they will quickly notice if your office doesn’t live up to the brand proposition. How your office is decorated, from your lobby to the state of your washrooms, all impact how people perceive you.
Research published by Medical Construction and Design shows that 73% of the business community believes that a bad toilet environment indicates poor overall management. Considering that the washroom is often the first or last interaction a customer has with a business, a negative experience can leave a lasting impression.
Within the B2C industry, restaurants and retailers are arguably ahead of the game when it comes to their washrooms, understanding that service based organisations reply on revenue that’s derived from how they appear to customers.
However problems can still arise when there’s a clear disconnect between what’s portrayed to customers, and what staff experience when they go ‘back of house’. Any drop in standards for staff can indicate a certain amount of window dressing. Your shiny customer-facing brand isn’t a true reflection of who you really are, and it can result in your staff, and your suppliers viewing you as a business they work for — not a brand they believe in.
What can you do to improve the washroom experience?
While it can be uncomfortable to actively search for criticism, it’s important to get a realistic picture of where you stand. You can start by collecting and analysing data on current washroom standards, whether this is through visiting competitor facilities to gather qualitative data, or by using smart building technology to understand user satisfaction. As a start, washroom users should be encouraged to interact and give “soft feedback”.
It will provide you with the necessary information that will highlight areas for improvement. The interaction will also make users feel that they are being looked after and that their opinions are valued.
Tools that can assist with the process include devices such as:
- Sensors to measure traffic (producing information that can maximise the effectiveness of your cleaning rotas)
- ‘Happy or not’ terminals that use emojis to quickly record user satisfaction
- Employee surveys are other helpful ways to gather data on suggestions for improvements.
And it doesn’t have to be expensive, a simple but innovative ways of engaging with washroom users could be to simply install a whiteboard for messages, or a sign with the Facility Manager’s contact details, encouraging feedback and insights.
Get the basics right
According to the research in Medical Construction and Design, the leading washroom complaints among staff are:
1: Bad smells (82%)
2: Clogged or not-flushed toilets (79%)
3: A dirty, unkempt overall appearance (73%)
Considering the typical office worker visits the washroom three to four times a day, for a company with 100 employees, that’s 100,000 opportunities for complaints every year. Dealing with complaints isn’t new for facility managers, but arguably the best way to deal with this is to stop them being made in the first place.
Simple checks include:
1: Make sure that the quality of your washroom consumables is satisfactory, and relatively inexpensive sensors can alert FMs to when they’re running low.
2: Ensure that any maintenance issues are tackled before they become an irritation.
3: Make sure that there is enough toilet paper available in the toilets.
4: Any equipment (e.g. hand dryers, hand soap dispensers) must be in good working order. The toilets need to flush and the sinks need to drain.
5: Smells and stains need to be eliminated (urinal mats will provide your gents with a clean, hygienic, sweet smelling washroom), and wet floors need to be dried and bins need to be emptied on a consistent basis.
It may sound like common sense, but all too frequently these simple procedures are overlooked, and it can result in employees or customers feeling undervalued. Considering that the Elevated Washroom Online Survey revealed that 71% of staff thought an office washroom reflects on the facilities manager, getting the basics right will reflect well on both you, and your brand.
Reinforce your company culture
As with most things in life, it’s the little touches that can make all the difference. At the Digital Innovation at General Assembly – an educational and co-working space for entrepreneurs – they’ve created small, rectangular silver plaques with black embossed letters on the back of the toilet doors. All of them have different messages that read:
“Please refrain from flushing paper products other than toilet paper. There are better ways to dispose of love letters to your ex.” “
“Please refrain from flushing paper products other than toilet paper. There are better ways to dispose of old copies of Vanity Fair.”
“Please refrain from flushing paper products other than toilet paper. There are better ways to dispose of communist propaganda.”
These plaques are clever, unexpected and playful messages that align with the company’s hip and fun brand personality. This articulation of a company’s culture matters to people, and it helps to represent a company’s identity both internally and externally.
Going above and beyond
According to the 2017 Healthy Handwashing Survey, 89% of people believe that the condition of a workplace washroom reflects how much a company values its workforce, with a further 33% stating that there’s room for improvement.
For companies interested in going that extra mile, the wish list for improvement includes installing more touchless fixtures (such as automatic toilets and motion-activated faucets) with the trend towards ‘touch-free’ washrooms offering clear hygiene benefits. They also want air fresheners at their disposal, full-length mirrors, shelving for belongings and electric hand dryers.
While it would be remiss to say that a toilet is the ‘be all and end all’ of a strong brand, it does play a part. There’s a wealth of research that demonstrates that office facilities intrinsically reflects a company’s culture, values and brand, fostering a more engaged, productive and satisfied workforce.
Overall, there is an increasing onus on companies to establish a workplace washroom that is at least on a par with the facilities they enjoy at home. With so many ways to make your washrooms fantastic, there’s every chance that staff and customers will appreciate your brand even more.
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