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Business is business - When the cleanliness of toilets becomes an obsession

Extract from the book Business is business, published by Malpaso and Diabolocom

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In the train stations, the gas stations and when getting a burger, customers desire in particular to find clean toilets. Ensuring this can be a complex thing.

Why do people stop at motorway service stations? First to go to the toilet, and second to eat. One sensitive issue, among other clearly identified issues, is therefore… clean toilets. “In France, we have a network of 90 service stations, all of them on motorways. Our job is not just to provide fuel but to ensure people are safe during their break”, says Sophie Nigen-Chaidron, who recently took over the management of the Shell network. “We study and try to improve everything that goes into the customer experience: the location of hand dryers is not as insignificant as it sounds, for example: too far from the sink and they cause puddles as people move between the two.”

Salads are also making a strong comeback in the food section, with the sandwich range of two well-known brands leaving some consumers hungry for more. Signs have also been designed to create the ideal sequence near cash registers: “I see, I understand, I buy”. Avia is preparing for the summer rush as thoroughly as a Navy Seals raid into enemy territory, at night. Toilets and whether people think they are clean is of course the main issue, but this summer we’re going to go much further”, says Stéphane Commery, the director of the Avia brand in France, excitedly. In France’s second largest network, the new feature of the summer is the return of full-service pumps and, as a result, payment as close as possible to the customer using special tablets. Since last spring, this specialist, who previously worked in call centre management, has been preparing and refining the implementation of these innovations at one of the network’s service stations in Auvergne, so that everything goes smoothly, from social media management to complaints handling, quick adjustment to unforeseen circumstances and team
training.

“If we set up a new system but it proves to be poorly adapted or misunderstood, we must be able to listen to the feedback, to what the customer has to say, in order to react quickly.”

Some might ask why they need to think so much about such things. In public places, airports and train stations, cleanliness - especially in toilets - is one of the issues people most often single out for attention. This also requires work on how cleanliness is perceived and the active role the customer can play in that. A small poster with a paper mirror has been placed in the men’s restrooms in the Total/Venoy service station with the following text: “This is the person who can best help keep the toilets clean.” At Shell, a Smileybox placed in the toilets recorded more than 2 million votes last year in France. A total of 78 % of people had a positive opinion. A good score can make a difference: the renewal of the service station concessions by France’s major motorway management groups in 2019 and 2020 is obviously on everyone’s mind.

Did you know?

In the Philippines, the country with the largest number of call centre staff in the world, the number and cleanliness of toilets can also have an impact on staff retention. The type of hand dryer and its price may even be managed directly by the area director, like at Sitel, where Craig Reines had sites fitted with equipment bearing the company’s logo in order to foster a sense of belonging. And at negotiated prices!

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 Extract from the book Business is business, published by Malpaso and Diabolocom, in April 2019. Author Manuel Jacquinet. http://www.malpaso.org/publications/