What conversation is your customer having about the brand when they look through your window? Is it a conversation that other customers and prospective customers will have an affinity for joining?

It is often a good exercise to do a walk around and look at things from a customer perspective. On many digital sites we have admin access for the “back end” and we can also close that view or use a different link to see our social media site or web page as others would see it. The same goes for our physical presence. What does our plant look like from a customer point of view.

Years ago I was in the restaurant business. We had set patrol times to see what our physical plant looked like. This included the exterior of the building, the parking lot, signage, the refuse area, as well as the obvious points of access like the dining room, restrooms and lobby areas. Sometimes it was as simple as noticing that exterior signage wasn’t lit and most often the solution was to update the timer to accommodate seasonal changes in sunset and sunrise. After all, an unlit sign could mean many things to a customer, including a shop closed for the day.

I was recently reminded of this when I went used one of my favourite fast food drive through lanes. While I was waiting for my order, I had plenty of time to glance through the glass at the pickup window. What I saw was the side of a beverage machine that was not very clean. There were visible brown residual stains streaking down the exterior of the machine along with a partial view of a very soiled “Out of Order” sign. This of course begets the question, what does the remaining back of the house that I cannot see look like? Is it poorly maintained and unclean as well? When was the last time the shop manager took a look through the same window.

It is not always easy to get this outside perspective from the inside. Sometimes a good mystery shopping program will help you catch these defects, but usually a structured process for a frequent walk about will do quite well.

Really, though, the point I want to drive home is that marketing message created and the brand conversation enabled by this customer viewpoint is not the kind of dialogue that is healthy for your brand. It may be one small negative message that gets tucked into the recess of the customer’s mind. If there is another negative encounter the customer’s internal dialogue will attach the two experiences together, creating a more significant brand image.

So, who is responsible for this marketing message? Is it the cleaning crew, the shift leader, the shop manager, or the regional operations person? Developing a consistent and positive brand message can be as simple as empowering everyone in the organization to have marketing sense. In this case a first step would be using this as a learning opportunity by sharing the issue internally and having a discussion about the message this type of image conveys about the brand.

Willis Turner, CAE CME CSE, is an association management professional, speaker and author. Willis is the President & CEO of Sales & Marketing Executives International, the worldwide professional association for sales and marketing, established in 1935.