Why washrooms matter


Pants down and echoes all around — yes, this is the space that exposes our basic vulnerabilities. So why are we ignoring the bare essentials of bathroom design?

In this column we hope to bring facility-centric ideas that are generally off the radar but that can have a positive return on investment, customer loyalty and employee morale. Looking outside the automotive industry, we can learn how other businesses invest in their facilities to enhance the customer experience.

Can you imagine a place in a dealership where the dealer principal rarely ventures, and yet customers and staff “go” multiple times each day? Washroom design rarely gets attention from the OEM’s DCD, or the local architects and consultants, but your clients and employees are judging you every time they go there.

They say the little things make all the difference. And in some cases, the little things can make a big difference. This message rang loud for me after speaking with a bar owner in Toronto at a local Ontario Business Improvement Association meeting a few years ago.

I asked him if there was a particular investment he made to attract more customers. His answer was surprising, and it stuck with me since we spoke. It’s a simple facility investment that can translate into a powerful message to your customers and staff. He renovated his washrooms.

His budgets were tight, so he followed his wife’s advice and invested in better washrooms so that people, especially women, would stay longer. As a result, the women stayed longer and spent more, which compelled the men to stay longer too and drop a few more dollars. Sales improved, erasing his initial doubt about the amount he was spending on this renovation. Dollar for dollar, it was by far the best investment he said he made in his business.

Weis-tipsTranslated to the automotive industry, it’s not likely that customers will “spend” more just because of nicer washrooms. However, speaking from experience, a customer is likely to be much more comfortable waiting at a facility where the washrooms are clean, hygienic and nicely appointed.

There are countless surveys and data that women have a significant influence in the car buying process. There are also studies that show the next generation of vehicle buyers (Gen Y) places a high value on the customer experience.

If you really think about it, your washroom is the only space in your entire business where you have the customer’s undivided attention. It’s the only space in which you can have the most control over your customer’s experience with your business. From the moment a customer drives into the lot, they come with a cluttered mind from their day, their drive, the music or news they listened to on the way to your dealership, and so on.

They walk into your dealership and take a bit of it in, but they may still have their spouse in their ear, a salesperson coming at them, a service advisor asking for a signature, you get the picture. But in the washroom, where it’s quieter, where one is momentarily excused from every other obligation, this is the space where the senses are more aware.

You have an opportunity to really communicate with your client. What is powerful here, is that a person will equate the attention to detail you show in the washroom, to the level of care in which their car, and in turn they themselves, will receive as a customer with your business. Washrooms are not just another customer space — they are a key branding opportunity to convey the values and culture of a dealership or even dealer group.

Dealers should not underestimate what their washrooms say about their business. The good news is that a dealer will exceed everyone’s expectations by focusing a relatively small amount of incremental spending on a prime customer area.

A comfortable washroom experience goes beyond a potpourri bowl next to the sink. It involves attention to key details in the planning stages to ensure a successful result.

CAD-avatarMonte Weis, President of Weis & Associates, shares his design and facility expertise with dealers, via the leading industry journal, Canadian auto dealer magazine. A selection of articles are reposted here with permission.

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