What’s wrong with this Sign?

Service signage has always been a part of the messaging customers use to assess the attitude of a service provider.  “Don’t” signs are perceived differently than “Please” signs.  Signs that seek the customer’s help send a different message than signs that dictate, command or indirectly scold.  But, the most subtle negative form of messaging is the type of sign that contains a “tilt”—a complete in-congruence.

Comedians have for years created humor with signs like “In case of fire, please do not use the elevator”—who would think of using an elevator to put out a fire.  As customers, we chuckle at signage with poor sentence structure such as “Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar,” “If you believe our wait staff is being uncivil, you should see the manager” or “Open 7 days a week and weekends.” But, serious in-congruence causes us to react with disdain.

I stopped at a gas station with a sign over its front door that read, “The customer is king.” However, the sign on each gas pump read, “Please pay before pumping.”  How many kings would expect to pay before pumping?  Their sign promoting a free car wash with fill-up looked as if it desperately needed to be run through their car wash.  The restroom on the other side of their “Clean Restroom” sign was anything but.  Signage tells a big story about your customer attitude.  Are your service signs sending a customer-centric message?



About Chip&John

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of several best-selling books. Their newest book is "Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to do About it."
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