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Want to keep customers happy? Keep your restrooms clean

A new Bradley Company survey finds clean restrooms are a must for customers.
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Public Washroom
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People judge a business on many things. It may be surprising to operators of convenience stores to find that the state of their washrooms can mean the difference between a customer saying they had a good experience with their store or one that keeps them from coming back.

In the Healthy Handwashing Survey by Bradley Company, nearly 70% of Americans reported having a particularly unpleasant experience in a public restroom due to the poor condition of the facility. That included clogged or unflushed toilets, an old, dirty or unkempt appearance and unpleasant smells.

The survey sought the input from more than 1,000 American adults conducted by Bradley that has for the past 15 years annually looked at the state of public restrooms and perceptions surrounding them, as well as Americans’ handwashing habits.

The poor quality or the upkeep of a restroom has a direct impact on repeat business and sales, especially for convenience stores, as a poorly maintained restroom reflects on the business and its operator. Some 60% of respondents believe an unclean restroom shows poor management, 56% are left with a tarnished opinion of the business and half say they will not return to the business because of the poor state of the restrooms.

 On the other hand, 62% of those surveyed make a point to stop at businesses with clean and well-maintained bathrooms when they need to use the facilities, and nearly 60% willingly spend more money there.

“While 43% of Americans believe the overall condition of public restrooms has improved over the past 15 years, that leaves 57% who remain unimpressed,” says Jon Dommisse, vice-president, business development and strategy, Bradley Company. “Our research shows that business owners with subpar restrooms are leaving untapped sales opportunities on the table.”

Several key findings came out of this year’s survey which are of particular importance to convenience store operators, or for any customer-facing retail business:

READ: The next generation of retail is here 

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Clean Public Restrooms Increase Spending
Photo: Bradley Company

Bathroom pet peeves: 

A top restroom complaint by customers is used paper towels left on the floor or sink; water splashed around the floor or sink; and careless or reckless behavior that results in damage.

Almost 70% of those surveyed recall seeing somebody use a restroom without washing their hands, which creates a negative impression about that person. 

Despite COVID being far from the mind of most, people remain in an elevated state of germ consciousness, causing sensitivity to the cleanliness in restroom spaces. In fact, 80% of those surveyed say they are now more conscious about encountering germs because of the coronavirus, especially in retail operations. The facilities that cause people the most concern about germs are: Stores, health care establishments, restaurants, and gas stations.

Ill Effects of Unclean Restrooms
Photo: Bradley Company

People, it seems, go to great lengths to avoid encountering germs in public restrooms. Almost 70% use a paper towel as a barrier between themselves and flushers, faucets and doors and some 86% believe it is important to have touchless fixtures in a public restroom. Some 70% say they are more likely to return to a business that offers touch-free technology like faucets, flushers, soap and towel dispensers in its restrooms.

When asked what the most important improvement is they would like to see in restrooms, many say that the restrooms need to be cleaned regularly and to have them better stocked with necessary products, followed by more touchless features.

“Even if it means investing in an additional staff person, our survey responses tell us you should make restroom cleanliness and proactive maintenance high priorities at your business,” adds Dommisse. “It’s an investment in customer satisfaction, brand image, and health and safety.”

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