Tak­ing a cus­tomer-cen­tric ap­proach to how your peo­ple dress is a great place to start when it comes to cre­at­ing a com­pany wardrobe, writes Jackie O’Fee.

NZ Business - - CONTENTS - Jackie O’Fee is the owner of per­sonal style con­sul­tancy Sig­na­ture Style. She works with both in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions. More in­for­ma­tion on sig­na­

Defin­ing your brand. By Jackie O’Fee.

I’VE RE­CENTLY been work­ing with a cou­ple of or­gan­i­sa­tions on their staff uni­form. If I'm hon­est, this work is hugely chal­leng­ing and fun in equal mea­sure. Mak­ing sure your team all look (and feel) good in their work cloth­ing is an im­por­tant as­pect of who you are as a busi­ness.

I to­tally un­der­stand the frus­tra­tion of one busi­ness owner who once told me “we've spent lit­er­ally mil­lions on this busi­ness, cer­tainly hun­dreds of thou­sands on the brand­ing and mar­ket­ing and I look over at the peo­ple on our sales desk and I think ‘Oh no, what the hell is she wear­ing?'.”

And I also love the in­clu­sive­ness of other or­gan­i­sa­tions that have re­alised not only is it time for change from a brand­ing per­spec­tive but also that many of their peo­ple re­ally dis­like their cur­rent uni­form.

Or­gan­i­sa­tions want to do bet­ter by their peo­ple and bet­ter in terms of their own brand mes­sage. That's a great way to think, and cer­tainly a great way to get staff buy-in and en­gage­ment.

The way your peo­ple dress is some­thing that of­ten gets over­looked by many busi­nesses. They may have the slick­est logo, house their teams in the fan­ci­est build­ings, spend big on awe­some ad­ver­tis­ing, have great brand­ing etc. but peo­ple do busi­ness with peo­ple.

If your peo­ple don't mea­sure up to the stan­dards you've set in the eyes of your cus­tomer, they're un­der­min­ing all of that hard-won cred­i­bil­ity, leav­ing the cus­tomer with a sense of dis­quiet.

I think tak­ing a cus­tomer- cen­tric ap­proach to how your peo­ple dress is a great place to start when it comes to cre­at­ing a com­pany wardrobe. Although the or­gan­i­sa­tions I'm cur­rently work­ing with are quite dif­fer­ent in that one sells ser­vices and the other sells prod­uct, both sell at a price point that would be per­ceived to be a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment for their clien­tele. With that in mind, we need to for­mu­late a wardrobe that sends the right mes­sages to the peo­ple they deal with.

An­other key rea­son to start with your cus­tomer when mak­ing th­ese de­ci­sions is that re­search sug­gests the way your peo­ple dress im­pacts how they per­son­ally are per­ceived and, in turn, how your busi­ness is per­ceived.

Even the most seem­ingly dis­in­ter­ested client is ac­tu­ally judg­ing your peo­ple (and your busi­ness) by their ap­pear­ance.

A re­cent study by the Na­tional Re­search Coun­cil of Canada's Caro­line Dunn and Lucette Charette found that, “Peo­ple are af­fected by your ap­pear­ance, whether or not they re­alise it, and whether or not they think ap­pear­ance is im­por­tant.” In short, the vis­ual pre­sen­ta­tion of your peo­ple has con­se­quences.

So, as a start­ing point I en­cour­age all of my busi­ness clients to look at how they want to be per­ceived by the peo­ple who they do busi­ness with.

The list usu­ally in­cludes words like ‘ex­pert', ‘ap­proach­able', ‘pro­fes­sional', ‘ef­fi­cient' and ‘ca­pa­ble'. When de­vel­op­ing a uni­form or wardrobe con­cept for a team we use that as a base­line, and we then build on what that “looks like” for their or­gan­i­sa­tion.

We also pay re­gard to the spe­cific cloth­ing re­quire­ments for the job ( like long-sleeves or higher neck­lines for ex­am­ple). Us­ing all of this data, we can start to cre­ate a wardrobe that not only works for the busi­ness but also for those who are wear­ing it.

As a side note: This is also a great ex­er­cise to un­der­take on a per­sonal level. Are you pre­sent­ing the best you when it comes to the ex­pec­ta­tions of those you do busi­ness with?

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