ICS Magazine

The Training Corner: Post Disaster Training Alert

February 1, 2002
Sept. 11 affected us more deeply than we may have thought at first in our industry. But we can overcome.

The world around us has changed dramatically. The things we took for granted a few months ago no longer hold true. The tragic events of Sept.11 have influenced our future business and personal lives far more than most service professionals presently realize. These events have accelerated the phenomenon of consumers seeking safety and peace of mind to a crisis level. This "cocooning" is a late '80s term used to describe the increasing fears driving consumers to spend more time in what they perceive as a safe place - their homes, where only trusted persons have access.

By the middle '90s, 33 percent of consumers had changed their shopping habits because of their fears. Of these, 43 percent no longer shop after dark. As we reached the year 2000, the consumer was spending $104 billion on private security versus spending $44 billion on public service protection. Before the terrorist attack, private security firms employed two and a-half times the number of people that public law enforcement did. Today? Consumer fear currently knows no limit. In the days following the terrorist attack, the stock market plummeted, but the stocks of security firms climbed.

Bottom line
Your business future will be determined by the way you deal with this ever-fearful consumer.

The terrible events of Sept. 11 have brought the consumers fears to an absolute peak. The results are easily seen. Consumers aren't flying. They aren't going out to restaurants or the theater. They aren't buying cars. Major department store sales are currently down 20 percent. Consumers are staying in their cocoons, and businesses that understand and address these consumer fears will be welcome to enter.

When I started this series, "Guess What Your Customers Look For First," my focus was the importance of training your staff to recognize the enormous value of the impression that customers receive in the first few moments after they arrive at the job.

Since Sept. 11, such training is no longer optional if you wish to remain profitable in today's marketplace. Your marketing program today absolutely starts with training every employee. They must understand and be prepared to deal with all nine factors that the consumer subconsciously uses to make decisions about your company. (These factors, outlined in the first part of this series, are skin color, gender, age, appearance, facial expressions, eye contact, body movement, personal space and touch)

The one factor that can help solve many of the problems that occur with each of the nine decision influencing factors is "appearance," and nothing you do in the current marketplace is more important than driving this home in your employee training programs. However, just saying that appearance is important means little, since individuals make judgments based on their own experiences, which may not be positive.

Focus on the following four key areas regarding business appearance, and discuss these with your staff in great detail until you are sure they understand.

Business appearance - must conform to or exceed the norms of a quality professional cleaning service in the following areas: vehicles, production equipment, services offered and employees (uniforms, ID, behaviors).
Cleanliness - everything should look (and be) squeaky clean.
Smells - all smells (odors) should be at minimum acceptable, and preferably pleasant.
Clutter - operation should at all times appear uncluttered and professionally organized.
Much has been said and presented regarding the value of keeping customers and getting referrals from them in the past. Never has attention to this segment of your marketing program been more important to any business than it is at this period in time. And never has there been a time when an employee has had the ability to impact your business for either good or bad. My admonition to you is simply - Get your house in order.