Cleanliness: The Marketing Tool You Can’t Afford to Miss

It seems like a no-brainer–the cleanliness of a business affects customer satisfaction. After all, as a business owner or someone who visits other types of businesses, how likely are you to return to a business if its restrooms are dirty? Even if you choose to ignore a dirty floor (or worse), how likely is your spouse going to ignore it? Naturally, a dirty bathroom or customer area of a restaurant is going to discourage people from visiting again. Yet what does a dirty business space, whatever the industry, say about that business? You might be surprised that a dirty business speaks volumes about your operation and, alternative, a clean operation can market for you in a myriad of ways.

Business Cleanliness: Stats You Can’t Ignore

When it comes to business cleanliness, there are some statistics to keep in mind. In 2010, Procter & Gamble conducted a study of restaurant chains to rank aspects of customer satisfaction. The number one driver determining customer satisfaction was cleanliness. Cleanliness outweighed value, convenience, and even the order’s accuracy. No one wants food poisoning, of course, and a dirty restaurant seems like a breeding ground for food-borne bacteria. Additionally, if a restaurant falls short of acceptable levels of cleanliness, it risks being shut down.

Yet, what about other types of businesses when it comes to cleanliness? How does cleanliness or lack of cleanliness affect business image? First, address this on a personal level. If you’re visiting the mall, how likely are you to seek out Macy’s or Nordstrom’s restrooms over a general mall restroom, over a fast food restroom? If your business bathroom can attract customers on its own, imagine the edge that gives you over stores that have unclean or unkempt bathrooms? How many customers seeking out a restroom actually stop to browse the merchandise, actually make a purchase?

Luckily, there are some statistics about retail store cleanliness too. A study conducted independently for Cintas Corporation found that 94% of customers would avoid a business in the future if they found the restrooms to be dirty. What is that dirty restroom saying about these businesses? Dirty bathrooms might be telling customers that both management and staff are very likely lazy, negligent, unprofessional, and could probably care less about the customer experience on a gut level. After all, how likely is customer service going to be a positive experience when the store doesn’t even care about the state of the bathrooms?

Aside from bathroom cleanliness, the atmosphere of the store ranks fairly high on the customer satisfaction list. Unlike restaurants where cleanliness ranks first, overall clothing store cleanliness (bathrooms aside) comes in at second–but that’s still pretty high on the list. Researchers found that retail store atmosphere encompasses basic cleanliness, lighting and temperature, and active atmospherics like music, product demonstrations, and other attention-getting features. Studies found that retailers that had an excellent store atmosphere had a significant advantage over competitors that scored less on atmospherics.

The Positive Marketing Aspects of Cleanliness

One reason businesses might be getting away with that dirty bathroom is that it doesn’t track the number of customers who don’t return because of it. It tracks its sales and expenses and probably lets its corporate offices worry about marketing. If you have a business that can afford to turn off customers with your dirty bathroom toilets and floors (can any business really afford this?) and disorganized, dusty shelves and sticky tables, you may not worry what your dirty business says about you.

Yet, just consider what a clean atmosphere says about a business? When items are meticulously put into place and bathrooms are glistening with cleanliness, it immediately tells the customer: this is a nice place to be. In thinking further, it lets them know that the business is professional, detailed, organized, and cares about the customer experience as well as its own appearance. Think about how the clean atmosphere of your business is working or not working for your business? The good news is you can enhance your operation right away by prioritizing its cleanliness.

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