When you are trying to build a branded customer experience, you have some very specific operational levers you can use as a manager.** When I start to think about a client's situation, I systematically work through all of the operational dimensions to make sure we consider everything. So let's do this together with the ladies room, and see what we learn.
Doesn't really seem to apply to the ladiesroom, as we are assuming that the basic functionality exists. If your ladiesroom is missing the basic functionality expected, you're wasting your effort on anything else.
The term product can open debates about what it is you are actually selling. My solution is this: it's the literal answer a customer would give if you asked them what they are buying. So Disney may be selling "happy memories", but if you ask people what they just paid for, they will likely say "admission to Disneyland". A bank may be selling "financial security", but people say they are paying for "a chequing account". It's a way of distinguishing product features and benefits from other elements of customer experience.
Unless you have employees holding hand-towels in your public washrooms, this isn't about your employees, their roles and their behavior. Except that you might train them how to give directions to the ladiesroom discreetly. You need to have standards for the cleaners. And some approach to the bathroom key if you are going to make people ask for a key.
When I was growing up, the bathrooms in department stores cost 10 cents to use, so my Mom and I shared. [Thank goodness those days are mostly over.] So price isn't really a lever with the ladies room, because we are going to assume you don't charge for it directly. However, your customers will expect all of your facilities to "match". Best Western's facilties can be less luxurious than Hilton's, but need to be better than Motel 6. This is why we talk about "integrated customer experience" - it all needs to fit together.
Your marketing communications probably don't need to reference the ladies room. But...consider the tremendous word of mouth McDonald's has had over the years for their bathrooms, which are almost always amply proportioned, fitted out with baby changing tables, and reasonably clean. It's a part of their brand promise, isn't it? And in their early days, this was a point of differentiation from the local greasy spoon. Now it's the minimum we expect, especially from a national franchise. If you are ever in doubt as to the minimum standards for a public bathroom, check out the McDonald's in your area, because they have defined the line. If you are below this standard, most people are going to think you're cheap or uncaring.
McD's also seems to take the viewpoint that we are all their customer -- which we pretty much are -- therefore don't worry about people coming in just to use your washroom. There are McD's that police their washrooms for non-customers, but they are infrequent, and are usually in troubled neighborhoods.
So we owe a debt of gratitude to McDonald's for raising the bar on bathrooms in the past.
Place & Process
These are the two dimensions left, and they are intimately linked in the ladiesroom. Because the place determines the process. So let's look next at the two P's that relate to the ladiesroom.
There's a lot to say about that, and we'll be saying it in the next post.
References, Resources, and more about the Bathroom Blogfest:
** Six rings of value: We call them the six rings of value, because they all link together to create an experience. There's a nice graphic here.
McDonald's: an improv group put a tuxedoed bathroom attendant in the Times Square McDonald's, and handed out free amenities like combs and cologne, explaining it was a head office promotion. People seemed to accept this at face value. Read the amazing story and see the pics here.
The bathroom can be a restroom, a place of restorative calm. Reshma Anand tells why she loves the bathrooms at the Taj Mahal hotel. CB Whittemore provides examples of the bathroom as work of art. These are differentiated bathrooms, memorable bathrooms, bathrooms that show imagination and pride of ownership.
The bathroom is clearly a place of secrets. Sara posts pictures about handwashing, and statistics about who does and doesn't wash their hands, including Sara herself. Maria Palma reveals that she is uncomfortable in bathrooms, and amuses herself by studying shoes.