THE BLOG
08/30/2013 05:02 pm ET | Updated Oct 30, 2013

Do Your In Store Signs Ruin Your Customer Experience?

No less than 24 hours after starting my blog about marketing mistakes, I was given a sign. Not a sign from above, but a literal neon pink sign from my neighborhood grocery store.

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In case the glare got you, here's what it said:

There has been a misprint in our ad. The pictures are not corresponding with the correct prices. The prices on the shelf are the correct price. Cooper's Food is not responsible for typographical and photographical errors. Sorry for the inconvenience.

I'm a firm believer in creating the right customer experience because it builds loyalty, creates advocates and results in repeat business. When something like this happens, try to honor the mistake.

I get sometimes that's not feasible. (Best Buy offered TVs online for $9.99 once and didn't honor it.) I suspect in this case, a store manager, district manager or owner didn't want to honor the marketing mistake. After all, why should the mistake of someone else, who is probably not going to be monetarily penalized for it, be the reason you take a financial hit?

The problem with this thinking is that you'll likely take a bigger financial hit in the long run if you don't address the short term. I'm not saying you have to honor the ad, but get creative.

Why not make it a scavenger hunt through the mistake through the store? Find 5 and get a small discount for the efforts.

Why not offer a 'mea culpa' coupon to those who ask? (But don't publish it on the front door.)

My point? Give your customers an experience (and signs) that strive to make it right, that matches your brand and that they may appreciate - even if it's not ideal. It will do you more good in the long run. I know first hand.

I've lived through a similar situation as a business owner with a business partner of a fitness facility. We didn't have a signage pricing error but we had a really stupid sign posted.

The sign read something like this:

Please clean up after yourself. No one wants a mess. Everyone likes a clean bathroom.

Yep, we were basically telling you that if you went to the bathroom here you were responsible for cleaning it up. We even had a bottle of 409 sitting on top of the toilet for when you were ready to clean. This infamous sign created all sorts of friction between my business partner and I. I was wanted it down because it was a bad customer experience. And he wanted it up because he didn't want to have to clean the restroom. Because I wasn't there as much and needed to pick the battles, he won. The sign stayed up for over a year.

The restroom remained cleaner, but we lost business from signs like these. Yes, there were several bizarre signs like it. (Another example, we had a 3 foot by 2 foot sign on an easel that said to leave your shoes at the door which was visible as anyone walked by.)

Ultimately, another club opened nearby and we didn't keep the customers we could have. We had not given our customers enough of a reason to want to stay and sadly our signage reinforced that 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year.

In hindsight: I should have fought harder on behalf of my customers. I didn't listen to the voices in my head. (Check out that post.) I should have gotten creative in negotiations. Maybe hired a cleaning crew? Bartered a membership for bathroom cleaning? Or at a minimum made a clever sign related to our brand promises? Something. Anything.

Please remember this: Think before you ink.

I'm curious. What signs have you seen that you consider marketing mistakes?