Does a better bathroom count with customers?
This is an important question, since virtually all service level improvements cost money, and we know plumbing is always expensive.
Last week at the qualitative conference, I told colleagues Tima and Michelle about the Bathroom Blogfest project. They quickly started talking about nightclubs with interesting ladiesrooms. In fact, they easily came up with an amazing list of clubs with memorable and interesting ladies rooms. There was one club with separate stall areas, but a mixed gender sink and mirror area. Another has one way mirrors that lets the ladies see the men primping in the mirror. Another offers free spa services inside the ladiesroom. (I'm still hoping for pictures to share with you, but they may have other things on their minds when they are clubbing!)
The Theory (Stay with me here, this is important)
If we were to measure consumer choices in any dimension, we are looking for a relationship along these lines: more (or sometimes less) of the dimension translates into more purchasing, more loyalty, more satisfaction, etc. The dimension could be anything such as speed of service, choice of colors, knowledgeable staff, convenient location.
Minimum acceptable standard
There are three zones of importance here, divided by two threshold lines. The first threshold is the minimum acceptable standard. If your performance is below this standard, you will see an impact on loyalty and repurchasing. All of this is pretty specific to each category, and sometimes to each customer segment.
For example, consider location convenience relative to the drycleaning category. There is some distance beyond which you will not travel no matter how much you like the drycleaner. This would be the minimum acceptable standard for convenience.
But there is likely a limit to how much "more convenient location" translates to loyalty. Once you've got door-to-door delivery, you've pretty much maxed out on convenience.
You might hear the phrase "hygiene factor" from a marketer. A hygiene factor is a dimension that has to meet a minimum standard, but once having met that, more is not better. Usually this is something like cleanliness: something can be dirty or clean, but there's no benefit to "more clean".
With other dimensions, customers can tell the difference between the minimum standard and a better standard, but it does not influence their behavior. Wait-time is often a dimension like this. Long line-ups can be frustrating, but people won't always move their business just to get a short line-up.
So there are really two kinds of hygiene factors: dimensions where there is no potential for differentiation, and dimensions where we can tell the difference, but we don't care about the difference.
I suspect that most shopping mall owners and other places with public washrooms think of bathroom quality as a hygiene factor. If it's clean and functional, that's all it has to be. These businesses make sure they are in the "minimum standard" zone, and stop there.
The Differentiation Line and Zone of Goodness
A differentiated customer experience is always up there in the Zone of Goodness, where we can see the difference, and we care about the difference, enough that it influences our behavior.
What the heck does all this mean for the ladiesroom???
I don't think we choose a shopping mall or an airline based on the quality of the ladiesroom. But it certainly registers as part of the total experience. Everything goes into the mix of emotion and memory, and we know that our emotional judgements about things affect our interest in repeating the experience.
We also know that our minimum standards are starting to go up, up, up in almost every dimension. If you don't believe me, consider the free spa services Tima and Michelle told me about.
More on the Bathroom Blogfest 2006:
Yesterday: the bathroom in your establishment is a thin-slice, litmus-test for the rest of your experience.
Bloggers participating are listed in the first group of blogroll links over on the left.
Thanks to David Polinchock at Experience Manifesto for picking up our theme and posting on the Blogfest. Guys do care.
Stephanie Weaver at Experienceology discusses bathrooms around the world, and sets the minimum standard: clean and functional.
CB Whittemore at Flooring the Customer examines the quality dimension, ranging from horrific to over-the-top.
Reshma Anand wonders why there can't be gender specific bathrooms on airplanes.
Linda Tischler asks the key question: Would you want your wife to pee in this place?
We are continuing to sign up bloggers, so send me a postcard, drop me a line, stating point of view etc.