Why is my Business Losing Customers?

There are many reasons why your business may be losing customers but let’s start at the beginning and see if we can fix the problem.

Psychological studies have shown that you have just SEVEN seconds to create a first impression. A mere seven seconds will color potential customers entire experience of your business and effect every opinion either positively or negatively.

First impressions are extremely powerful and very difficult to overcome. If your business fails that initial seven second test, your business is literally put at risk of failure. You won’t even know WHY your business is struggling. Seriously, you have ONE shot to get it right. Ominous words, but true.

Clearly seven seconds are not enough for people to walk in, order, try your product, taste your food, experience your service, decide if your prices are fair, rate their overall experience, and decide if they will return and recommend others come. All of those elements are important, but they will all be influenced by that first impression. Seriously, you have ONE shot to get it right. Don’t screw it up.

Here are 9 things that affect that crucial first impression. After you read this, you need to walk into your front door, be as ruthlessly objective as possible – as though this is the very first time you’ve entered your business.Remember, you have competition up and down the street – there are OTHER pizzerias in town. Ice cream is cheaper at the grocery store. Yours is not the only deli that makes subs. Don’t let yourself slack off thinking, ‘eh, it’s good enough’. Experience your business with fresh, critical eyes.

  1. Cleanliness – The importance of impeccable cleanliness cannot be overstated. Any indication of dirt and garbage instantly tells people that if the place is dirty in the public area, it is SURELY dirty where they cannot see. The turn-off factor is powerful. It’s amazing how often we have been in businesses in which the front glass is smudged and the windowsills are grimy, there is dirt on the shelves, old brooms are left out, the plastic plants are dusty, the garbage can is sticky etc. Your business should absolutely sparkle. The remedy is easy and free and you have no excuse to not make sure cleanliness is a first priority. Some elbow grease and a consistent routine is all it takes.
  2. Lighting – Proper lighting can make or break an environment. You can have a clean, well decorated business but if the lighting is too cold and dim, it is difficult to overcome. Our local supermarket has the frozen food aisle darkly lit for some mysterious reason. I feel such a aversion to that darkness that I actually avoid shopping there in favor of a more distant store. I’ve chatted with local friends and they have the same negative feeling about that darker area of the store. There is never a time when bright, warm lighting is not beneficial. It’s hard to be in a good mood when in lighting too dim. Make sure all your bulbs are working. Add track lighting to accent and emphasize important areas such as the menu boards or a beautiful feature wall.
  3. Smells – Did you know that studies have shown that there is a nearly 40% improvement in mood and length of time that people stay in businesses when people are exposed to a pleasant fragrance? And that’s not even the biggest findings! Other studies by big name retailers documented an 80% increase in ‘intent to buy’ and, get this, coffee sales went up by 300% at gas stations when the fresh brewed coffee scent was enhanced! We all know the intoxicating draw that Cinnabon, Starbucks and Wendy’s have. There is a fascinating whole world of scent marketing out there for you to look into. So, on top of a CLEAN smelling environment, you might want to consider adding fresh coffee, hot cookies, home baked bread, and/or fresh cut flowers. There are special scent machines on the market, or you can choose a subtle scents with a diffuser or oils. But please DON’T go spraying Lysol or lighting a stick of incense, just sayin.
  4. Sounds – If customers come into your business, they should not be feel like they are entering a funeral home. Have pleasant, upbeat music playing at a low level in the background. It will create a cheerful mood that subliminally makes people enjoy being there.  Do not have a radio with crappy speakers and annoying commercials running harping incessantly.
  5. Fresh Plants – Come on, when are plants and flowers not appropriate? Sure, you could stick some cheap plastic blooms on the tables but…then your business will say ‘we are cheap and plastic…like our decor’.  Get some plants, preferable large, and put them in beautiful pots that coordinate with your decor. Don’t leave them in the cheap grocery store containers. Arrange a deal with the local florist to get a colorful bouquet for your counter every week. Plants communicate that your business is fresh and wholesome and full of life.
  6. Attitude – People must be greeted with eye-contact and friendly smile the moment they enter the door. The bond that can be created by just a wee bit of human interaction and personal attention is incredible. Teach your employees that this is an absolute must for their job security. Remember how many times you’ve gone in a business and not even been acknowledged? It’s a foolish thing for a business owner to allow, because it immediately communicates, “we don’t care that you’re here and won’t care if you leave.” People like going where they feel welcome and….

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You wanna be where you can see
Our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

– Gary Portnoy

Gee, where have we heard that before? 🙂

7. Decor – Do you see your customers’ eyes light up when they walk in and look around or do they more resemble bored zombies? That zombie look tells you immediately that there is a problem! Take some time and look around your business. Are your wall colors dull? Does your business decor have a coordinated theme that is impactful and engaging, or is it a jumble of little, disconnected elements that serve as little more than visual clutter? For example, do you have a corny print in an plastic frame on the wall? Old paper menus, your first dollar, and a map of Sicily with curled edge stuck on with scotch tape?! Are there random decorations cluttering your shelves? Ugly, unprofessional xerox prints of menu add-ons in cheap plastic holders on your counter? Lost dog notices and a poster of a band seeking a drummer? Is your wall menu boards outdated and hard to read? Everything that you have on your walls and shelves and counters should be coordinated, impactful, and have a REASON.

Free Consultation?

If you would like FREE professional consultation about the appearance of your business, we invite you to CONTACT US. We’ll send you info to book a time to talk. We will help you and offer objective, friendly input about your business decor and suggest ideas for business decoration. We invite you to to take some photos and (or video) and send them to us. No strings attached. No purchase necessary.


We have worked with literally thousands of small businesses in our 30 years of Character&Co. and have experience helping to transform them. We totally enjoy the engaging with other business owners. We’ll do whatever we can to help make that first seven second impression be a great one!

[recent_posts count=”4″]