Whenever neighborhood financial service centers consider marketing strategies for their businesses, the first things that tend to come to mind are the store signage, interior posters and teller signs, buck slips to be distributed to customers, advertisements in broadcast media or outdoor venues, social networking for word-of-mouth and the like. Seldom do many operators consider the marketing power that lies within their employees. One simple area that is easy to overlook is the appearance of your front line employees.
This crucial group can be a potent extension to your business’ brand statement and merchandising strategy and can go a long way in creating a positive impression of your company to both customers and other constituencies. In fact, as part of its Store Appearance Best Practices Guidelines, This FiSCA committee even included Employee Appearance as a integral part of the focus on store appearance and how the employees can impact that area. Below is an excerpt from the Best Practices Guidelines that pertain to Employee Appearance:
- An employee’s appearance projects an image that supports the company’s customer service and business objectives.
- Dress and grooming standards are in place to reflect a sense of professionalism that would be considered appropriate for a business environment.
- Dress standards do not allow the wearing of clothing that would be typically used for exercise or any other such leisure activity.
- Dress standards do not allow any clothing with words or pictures that may be offensive to customers or other employees are not permitted to be worn in the workplace.
- Dress standards do not allow clothing to be in wrinkled, dirty or poor condition.
- Grooming standards provide for styles for hair, jewelry, makeup and other personal items that are workplace appropriate.
- Employees adhere to good grooming and personal hygiene practices.
Setting a dress code can improve your company’s marketing efforts by providing these crucial benefits.
Sets the “personality” of the company. A neighborhood financial services center whose employees look like they just rolled out of bed does not impart a feeling to your customers that the employees respect them enough to show up to work dressed appropriately. Public perception of this industry begins with the external appearance of the stores, but is ultimately impacted by the customer’s experience with your staff. A clear, concise dress code policy makes it easy for all employees to fulfill the company’s objectives in defining the personality of its brand.
Eliminates Distractions: When the dress code is clear, it can reduce distractions caused by outrageous attire, inappropriate language printed on garments or the negative image often associated with tattoos and body piercings. This also means people are more likely to be focusing on work rather than chatting about what their coworkers are wearing to work “this time”.
Reduces employee confusion: a clear dress code means your employees don’t have to wonder “what” to wear or whether something would be appropriate to wear to work. It either meets the dress code requirements or not.
Not sure how far to go in establishing a Dress Code Policy for your business? When I consult with financial services center owners about this topic, I suggest that they adopt one of three different levels of employee dress standards for their stores.
Level One: If you don’t want to limit the dress of your employees, I suggest that you adopt the first level of store employee identification: the name tag. The name tag is nothing more than a pin-on sign that employees wear for identification purposes. This makes it possible for employees to choose their level of dress. You will notice that most retailers who use name tags still have dress codes that limit certain types of clothing but this at least provides some level of personalization and accountability. If security is a concern, limit the name tag to a first name basis.
Level Two: The new trend in retail employee dress codes is a sport or polo shirt. This shirt most often matches the store’s colors and is embroidered with the store’s name and logo. In some cases the retailer also specifies that no jeans be worn and suggests the color of slacks to be worn. This level has become the most common standard for many companies in our industry as it is easy and reasonably inexpensive to implement and most employees find it acceptable.
Level Three: This is the high-power “business suit” level. A suit or sport jacket with a tie or a blouse and skirt adds status and increases the perception of professionalism and respect. Although this may not be appropriate for every company’s brand personality, there are several operators who do use this strategy. Many even carry it to their corporate office personnel to communicate a consistent appearance throughout the organization.
Regardless of which strategy you adopt, the important part is that you adopt one, communicate it clearly and enforce it consistently. Like improving the appearance of your facilities, this is another step in making this industry more professional and mainstream in its retail image and marketing, all which lead to improved performance of your business.