Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Researchers study disgust: How it applies to you

If you scan the coupon inserts in the Sunday paper, you might already be aware that Americans are obsessed with cleanliness. Every other coupon is for air freshener, air sanitizer, or hand sanitizer, with seemingly endless variations on misters, oil plug-ins, scented candles, and lighted scent dispensers.

It turns out that researchers have been studying this trend as well. This article in Fast Company magazine describes research conducted by Andrea Morales at Arizona State University on shoppers' attitudes of disgust and contamination in retail environments. They learned that shoppers are less likely to buy, or pay full price for, shirts that have been returned or were being tried on by another customer.

Morales' recommendations to retailers are to
1) put new price tags on returned items,
2) make certain dressing rooms are clean,
3) remove merchandise left behind by other customers in dressing rooms, and
4) to keep clothes folded neatly, not dumped in bins.

I believe this applies to other environments as well, such as museums. If you have interactives that get grubby, visitors may be less likely to use them. If you have children's dress-up areas, make sure you launder the costumes regularly and keep them in good condition.

Dressing areas at health-care offices should be kept extra clean, and gowns there in good condition. If you provide storage lockers or bins, make sure that other people's items, or dirt, doesn't build up, leaving patients (or gym members) feeling that their things got contaminated.

I've already spent a week blogging about the importance of bathrooms in the customer experience, and cleanliness is the basic minimum there.

Tip of the day: Whatever your business, basic maintenance is a must. You should be striving for providing an environment that feels extra-clean, so your customers don't pick up this feeling of contamination while visiting you. It will hurt your sales, and may also reduce people's desire to return. At worst, it could create negative word-of-mouth advertising.

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