Signing Your Customers

I live on a large lake known for great fishing and boating.  My neighbor put a large sign on the lake side of his boathouse that read: “Put Bimini Top Down.” The sign does more than warn the driver of the boat to lower the aluminum frame supported canvas cover before entering the boat house, it tells a story. Someone at some time forgot to lower it and the entire top got ripped off. Or, Scott feared that might happen.

All signs can potentially tell a story to your customers.  “Don’t even think about parking here” sends a story of an angry owner weary of intruders. I recently saw a sign on a chain link fence with a picture of a pistol. The sign read “We don’t call 911.” It echoed the sentiment of another property owner with a noticeably belligerent side. Angry signing is obvious. But, a subtle tone for signage can be much worse since it leaves customers not quite sure about the motives of the sign owner.

How would you interpret: “We don’t accept personal checks” or “Take a number and wait until your number is called” or “Do not walk on the grass” or “Employees only beyond this point?”  All of these signs could be reworded with a noticeably positive tone. Signs can be clever like: “Unattended children will be given an expresso and a free puppy.” Signs can be informative like: “School zone: No passing.” Or, they can be warmly directive like: “Thou shalt not park in the pastor’s parking space.”

Do a sign audit. Consider the location and whether signs are communicating what customers need to know. Is the color of the sign appropriate to the message? Would that bright red sign be more welcoming if it were colored green? Would a sign in warm colors be more likely to be noticed than one in black and white? Does the tone of the message (and the story implied) match your desired brand message? Is the sign fixing a single, one-off occurrence or is it addressing a on-going pattern of behavior?

Signage is a vital part of your brand. Make it a thoughtful addition to the manners you use to communicate with your customers. And, if you ever park your boat in Scott’s boat house, don’t forget to look up and read the sign before entering!

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Dr. Chip R. Bell is a world-renowned authority on customer loyalty and innovative service. Global Gurus ranked him in 2018 the #2 keynote speaker in the world on customer service; #1 in North America. He also is the author of numerous national and international best-selling books including Take Their Breath Away, Managing Knock Your Socks off Service, Magnetic Service, The 9½ Principles of Innovative Service and Customers as Partners. His books have been translated into over a dozen languages.

His newest customer service book is the award-winning, best-selling book Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles.

Dr. Bell has appeared live on CNBC, Bloomberg TV, CNN, Fox Business, ABC, CBS, NPR Marketplace and his work has been featured in Fortune, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Forbes, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, Inc. Magazine, and Fast Company.


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