Down the Drain

I recently wrote a post about the less glamorous side of  first impressions.  One of the examples I gave involved restrooms.  It’s an area that can often get overlooked when thinking through first impressions and your guest experience.  However, it can quickly create a negative experience.

It’s interesting to go into a really nice environment and find a horribly maintained restroom.  Equally interesting, is to go into a place that’s dirty and not well-maintained, but has an immaculate restroom.  I’ve been in nice restaurants that have surprisingly dirty bathrooms and restrooms in run down gas stations that looked like they belonged in a four star hotel.  In both cases the quality of my experience was impacted.

Here are a few areas to think through when evaluating the restrooms:

  • Smell – hopefully it smells good or at least not bad.  Air fresheners are cheap
  • Paper Products – TP & Paper Towels – make sure before an event that these items are well stocked
  • Trash Cans – these need to be in a place that are accessible, because if they aren’t trash will end up all over the floor. Please place at least one beside the door for the germaphobes
  • The Floor – clean it well before and after an event
  • It might be a good idea to assign someone to make rounds and do some spot cleaning (wipe up any water on the counter, pick up trash on the floor, etc.) at regular intervals

For additional reading – here’s an article about first impressions, rest rooms, and the college admissions experience from TargetX.  Here’s a look at the winners of a contest they held.



I’ve always been a big fan of simplicity.  I like products, services, and technology that make my life simpler.  I especially love systems that simply processes for all involved.

I read a post on Kem Meyer’s blog a few months ago about simplicity that made a lot of sense.  Here are my favorite excerpts:

There’s always something you can simplify. In fact, I had one meeting today about simplifying our web site and have one scheduled for tomorrow about simplifying our volunteer sign-up process. In both cases, our current solution makes sense to us internally, but is stalling out externally. Instead of defending why we do it the way we do, we’re going to figure out what needs to change. That means we have some work to do.

Simple is smart and it’s hard work. Complicated is ignorant and it’s lazy. Just sayin’.

I love the line, “it makes sense to us internally, but is stalling out externally.”  It shows their willingness to simply the process not only for insiders, but also for outsiders – in their case, guests.  Often times it’s simpler for those on the inside to keep things the way they are, but if outsiders get lost on your website, in your store, can’t follow your concept, or are just plain confused by your system – maybe the best thing (for you and for them) is to make things simple for those on the outside.  The long-term growth and success of your organization, at some level, depends on outsiders.

The last line in the quote about is often one of the reasons that simplicity gets overlooked.  It’s hard work!  You have to plan, execute, evaluate, plan, execute, evaluate, plan, etc.  It might take you months or even years to make a process or a system simple for those on the outside.

Less Glamorous Side of First Impressions

My dad’s managed restaurants for my entire life, so needless to say I’ve spent a lot of time in and around them.  One thing that I never understood when I was younger was why he would always pick up trash around the parking lot on his way in or out.  A couple of days ago I was thinking about this again and it reminded me that thing little things matter, and

Less glamorous can = Big Impact

He knew that even if the service was excellence and the food tasted great, if guests constantly had to walk past trash on their way in it would negatively affect their experience.  If you walked into a nice office or a theater, but the bathroom had paper towels all over the floor, a dirty counter, and writing on the stalls, it would change your impression of the environment.

It’s easy to get people excited about the glamorous side of first impressions – greeting guests, providing them with much-needed information, being the host/hostess or waiter/waitress at a restaurant.  It’s not very often you find people competing to pick cigarette butts out of the mulch or scrape gum off the floor.  When it comes to first impressions, the less glamorous roles – picking up trash, washing dishes, cleaning the bathrooms, landscaping – are as important as the high-profile ones.

I’ve given a few examples, but also know that a lot more exist.  What are some examples you’ve seen of this positively or negatively?

Complete the Experience

A few months ago I was dining at One Midtown Kitchen with some friends and experience something that I think translates into a great customer service principle.

The experience that evening was definitely good – the food was well prepared and presented, the service was excellent, and the atmosphere was carefully planned.  We had finished our meal and were talking as we walked toward the door.  Just before we walked out the door the host engaged us, asked us about our experience, and wished us a good evening.  Then, once we were outside, the valet engaged us and also asked out about our experience.

The experience was already good – the actions of the host and the valet made it great, they worked to

Complete the Experience

As I’ve been thinking about this principle for a few months I’ve seen it pop up in other places.  AAA makes good use of this to check on the service their members received.  After you call them for service, they’ll call you within the next 24 hours to see if everything was okay, your service was prompt and if you need anything else.  Some business and churches have “exit greeters” who greet you on the way out to try to complete your experience.

What if performing arts centers, theaters, and arenas started doing this?  “Thanks for spending the evening (and your money) with us we hope you have a safe trip home.”  What about your mechanic?  “Thanks for trusting me with you car (i.e. something you probably don’t know a lot about) do you have any questions about the service I did today?”

Where have you experienced or seen an organization “complete the experience.”  How did they do it?  Were they excellent in something small, or did they go over the top?


I read a great quote last year, “let’s just call plans what they are…guesses” (from Jason at the 37 signals blog). In the spirit of beginning a new year and the inevitable resolutions, plans, goals that ensue, I’ve listed links to some of the more helpful posts I’ve come across in the last few weeks about “guesses” and the new year.

If you don’t already have a list of “guesses,” then it’s not too late to start.  If you plans become a reality, they probably don’t care if you started on January 1st or January 15th.

2010 Reading List

Last week I posted an update to my 2009 reading list.  Here’s my initial reading list for 2010.  I call it an initial list, because it’s a list of books that I plan on reading, but as you can tell from my 2009 list there will probably be some additions and subtractions to the list throughout the year:

  • Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
  • What the Dog Saw – Malcom Gladwell
  • Uprising – Erwin McManus
  • Good to Great – Jim Collins
  • How the Mighty Fall – Jim Collins
  • Superfreakonomics – Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner
  • Fired Up or Burned Out – Michael Lee Stallard
  • The Meaning of the Pentateuch – John H. Sailhamer
  • 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – John Maxwell
  • Mavericks at Work – William Taylor & Polly Lebarre
  • The E-Myth Revisited – Michael Gerber
  • The Reason for God – Tim Keller
  • Prodigal God – Tim Keller
  • Counterfeit Gods – Tim Keller
  • The Six Fundamental Laws of Success – Stuart Levine
  • The Back of the Napkin – Dan Roam
  • Courageous Leadership – Bill Hybels
  • Axiom – Bill Hybels
  • Mentor Like Jesus – Regi Campbell
  • Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands – Nancy Ortberg
  • Walking with God – John Eldredge
  • Think Orange – Reggie Joiner
  • The Starbucks Experience – Joseph Michelli
  • The Experience Economy – Joseph Pine & James Gilmore
  • The Principle of the Path – Andy Stanley
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey
  • What Jesus Demands from the World – John Piper
  • Derailed – Tim Irwin

That’s what I have so far.  As I said above, I’m sure there will be some changes as the year progresses.  Any other suggestions?

Reading Update

At the beginning of the year I posted my 2009 reading list.  I thought I’d give an update on how I’m doing (as much for myself as for anyone else).  It looks like right now that I’ll read 22 books by the end of the year, which is shy of my goal (at least 24 books) – so next year I need to get in a better rhythm or pick up the pace a little.

Here’s my reading list for 2009:

  • The Back of the Napkin – Dan Roam
  • Courageous Leadership – Bill Hybels
  • Axiom – Bill Hybels
  • Be Our Guest – The Disney Institute
  • Walking with God – John Eldredge
  • Sex:God – Rob Bell
  • First Impressions – Mark Waltz
  • The Deity Formerly Known as God – Jarret Stevens
  • Mavericks at Work – William Taylor & Polly Lebarre
  • The Truth About You – Marcus Buckingham
  • Why Work Sucks & How to Fix It – Cari Ressler & Jody Thompson
  • 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, updated edition – John C Maxwell
  • Communicating for a Change – Andy Stanley & Lane Jones
  • Tribes – Seth Godin
  • What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – Marshall Goldsmith
  • Uprising – Erwin McManus
  • Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands – Nancy Ortberg
  • I am not but I know I AM – Louie Giglio
  • Blink – Malcolm Gladwell
  • Creating Community – Andy Stanley & Bill Willits
  • Fired Up or Burned Out – Michael Lee Stallard
  • The Encore Effect – Mark Sanborn
  • The Purple Cow – Seth Godin
  • Killing Cockroaches – Tony Morgan
  • Letters from a Nut – Ted L. Nancy
  • The Go Giver – Bob Burg & John David Mann
  • Leadership & Self Deception – The Arbinger Institute
  • Chasing Daylight – Eugene O’Kelly
  • Cirque Du Soleil: The Spark – John U. Bacon & Lyn Heward
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
  • Primal – Mark Batterson
  • A Million Miles in a Thousand Years – Donald Miller

If you’re interested, here’s a list of books that I read in 2008.  In a few days I’ll post my initial book list for 2010.