The Uniform Effect

The subject of uniforms came up this week during a client customer experience mapping project. Outside of the fast-food and hospitality industries you don’t see many uniforms these days. That’s too bad, because uniforms can put the exclamation point on your customer experience design.


Photo Credit: Fabird Blue

Uniforms are ex-vogue right now, mainly because they are inconvenient. Employees don’t like to wear them, and consequently employers don’t like them because they have to convince unwilling employees to wear them. This is mainly because neither party understands the uniform’s importance in delivering the brand experience.

There’s no universal rule to help you decide if uniforms are right for your business, but I believe most businesses should have some sort of uniform, even if it’s in the form of a dress code. In a comprehensive study for the hospitality industry, uniforms were found to be an important component of the establishment’s brand identity. But it was also found that the uniform’s effect was much greater because it boosted both employee and customer satisfaction. That’s right, uniforms can actually boost employee satisfaction. :: Read more here: The Effect of Employee Uniforms on Employee Satisfaction.

Back when I was a radio station sales manager, I had a strict dress code (uniform) for my sales reps. We were one of four different sales teams in the building. At first, the reps would complain, and even test me. More than one time I sent a rep home to change clothes because of a dress code violation. But I wanted to send a message: we were not sales reps, we were professional consultants and would dress as such. After a while the complaining stopped. Our numbers soared. We consistently met goals and outperformed the other sales staffs. In time, the dress code became a source of pride and it became part of our identity.

Dress for Branding

In his classic book, Dress for Success John Molloy advised that you should dress to match your product. He was advising the individual, so I’m going to change it up here for business owners and advise that you dress your employees to match your brand. To get pure brand delivery in your customer experience, consider putting your employees in uniforms. If you do, here are a few tips:

Involve Employees – Not to dumb down the uniform or make it acceptable, but to assure that they are functional and comfortable. While employees may not like the uniforms, you don’t want them to hate the uniform and dread wearing it.

Educate Employees – Let them know exactly why you are requiring a uniform or dress code.

Think Branding – The uniform is part of the customer experience, and the highest goal of customer experience design is to deliver the brand. Make the uniform look like your brand.

Be Bold – Your employees should stand out from the crowd. If you have a dress code, make sure it clearly distinguishes your employees from customers. If you use uniforms, make sure they don’t look like a form of casual dress.

Does your business use uniforms? How can you add an exclamation point to your customer’s experience?

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