Think Like Your Customers: Stray Cats, Sustainable Design, and Small Business

Cat FancyIf you have or have had a pet, raise your hand. If you've ever taken said pet to the vet, keep your hand raised. Close your eyes. I want you to visualize the waiting room. Do you picture a standard reception counter with Formica top, 5-6 pleather chairs with metal legs, a small table with a generous supply of Cat Fancy, Fido Friendly magazines, and the smell of Pine-Sol wafting through the air? Whether you're a dog, cat, ferret, iguana, or their owner, as a customer I think it's safe to say most veterinarian waiting rooms are not a place you'd like to spend an extended period of time.

I recently had a chance to meet with the cofounders of evolveEA, an architectural design firm with a passion for sustainability (who also helped create a really cool cubicle-less work space). And that's when I learned about the work they did with the East End Veterinary Medical Center and how it completely flipped the clinic's customer experience on its ear. Instead of going with the same cookie cutter space (see above), they spent the time to really think about the experience of the customers (both human and animal) from the time they walked in the front door. That's why you'll notice a fish tank placed strategically just under the cash register--a little treat to captivate small children and hungry cats alike. Not to mention the fact that staring at a fish tank might also help to take a little bit of the edge off when you're nervously waiting to see the doctor to exam an ailing pet.

And beyond just the visual appeal, they also thought strategically about how they could make their practice more sustainable. How many small businesses, especially veterinary clinics, look for opportunities to use Low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paint, recycled steel wall studs, recycled drywall, and low flow faucets to help reduce their environmental footprint?

If you haven't asked your customers for input on your reception area and looked for opportunities to make your work space a little easier on the environment (whether you're a huge company like Bank of America or a small family business), it's time. Or you can stock up on back issues of Fido Friendly magazine and miss out on an opportunity to, through strategic sustainable design, build a following of loyal (and happy) customers. The choice is yours.

Shawn Graham helps job seekers and entrepreneurs work better. Find Shawn at CourtingYourCareer, on Twitter @ShawnGraham or via email at shawn(at)courtingyourcareer.com.

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2 Comments

  • Shawn Graham

    Thanks, Juan. I'm always surprised at how many people don't notice the little details. I once mentioned some sickly looking potted plants outside of an office space and the person I was speaking with never saw them before--and they were there for months. Months!

  • Juan Ortiz

    Thank you for the article. We get so focused on customer service and try to make our product better than the competition, than we forget about small details of the overall-experience. We don't want to go to a smelly place to get service, or deal with an angry secretary. Little details that can create the wrong first impression, thus changing the perception of the brand we've built for our customers, and we need to pay attention to them.