A conversation held with some girlfriends over the weekend made me realise the true power of the customer toilet. It occurred to me that without even realising it, we had judged a whole organisation by the standard of their toilets, or whether they had any at all. All the male readers of this blog will be switching off now, but I urge you to read on and I guarantee you’ll agree
with me.

I read a statement in Tom O’Toole’s book, Breadwinner, his amazing personal account of his life and success with the Beechworth Bakery, that I’ll never forget:

‘When someone goes upstairs to use our toilet, there’s a chance they’ll grab a pie on the way out. There is no ‘for patrons only’ sign on our toilets. Toilets are a draw-card’.

Recalling my ‘toilet talk’ on the weekend, Tom is absolutely right.

On a long road trip a few weekends back I deliberately avoided a particular service station because of a disappointing previous visit to their (poor excuse for) toilets. When I stopped at another service station, I purchased a snack on the way out.

I remember a particular restaurant at a resort due to the amazing finishings, lighting and high quality hand towels they used in their toilets, and recommended them to friends and family at every possible opportunity. ‘They had great toilets’ I’ll say without hesitation. I don’t remember how much we paid for our meal and I don’t care either.

Public facilities say so much about a business and are part of the many subtle things (what Jack in the box terms as one percenters) that form a customer’s total perception about a company. As Tony’s famed story about the coffee stains on aeroplane trays as an indicator of airline quality proves, consumers will judge an experience by the subtlest of indicators.

Tourism operators are particularly impacted by ‘toilet perceptions’. A perception about a destination or public attraction will be impacted by the quality of the public facilities, especially if it is children-focused. With the recent Swine Flu scare, people are also much more attentive to cleanliness and hygiene in public places.

So if you’re wondering what you can do to re-ignite your business, take some time to ponder your public facilities from the consumer’s perspective. If you’re bombarded with phallic drawings and ‘ (someone) woz here’ comments, you have a problem. If you feel relaxed, calmed, pampered and clean, then you’re onto a winner. Trust me!