Going Beyond First Impressions

It’s day seven of my vacation, and while I’d hoped to do some sightseeing upstate, so far the only thing I’ve seen is the interior of veterinary facilities. After the dog injured her paw, my vacation-turned-staycation took me on a tour of animal hospitals and clinics, where I spent numerous hours in lobbies and exam rooms.

Because design is my passion (and because spending three hours a day in waiting rooms gives you plenty of time to think), I found myself contemplating parallels to kitchen and bath showrooms I’ve visited, and how the design of each spoke to the type of experience I might expect to have there.

One veterinary office was all about de-stressing: Comfy couches, an herbal tea station, magazines and a soothing color palette created a home-like feeling. Staff introduced themselves by first name, and provided regular (and sincerely voiced) care updates. From the way the staff interacted with pets and people to the holistic supplements and monthly wellness seminars offered, it was clear that the facility’s mission was to treat the whole pet, not just the crisis at hand.

The approach reminded me of that of designer Bev Adams, whose Denver-based Interior Intuitions showroom reflects a design philosophy that is as much about the people she designs for as it is about products or design elements.

Meshing psychology with creative space ideas, her showroom is a jumping off point for creating “room behaviors based on human needs” – an approach that focuses on the human element of design (see related story, Showing off).

A second veterinary facility took a different approach, eschewing warm and cozy for sleek and professional, with a clean design that acted as a quiet backdrop for framed diplomas, awards and news stories showcasing the staff. If the goal was to inspire trust, it clearly succeeded; all of those doctors with multiple accreditations and awards reassured me that my dog was in capable hands.

Interestingly, I rarely see kitchen and bath showrooms showcasing their staff in this way. Rather, many focus exclusively on the products or displays, assuming that it’s all about the aesthetics. But in reality, first impressions are multi-dimensional, and aesthetics are only one part of the equation.

Because homes, like pets, evoke strong emotional responses in people, a high level of trust is essential. And credentials – whether it’s a CMKBD, CKD, CBD, ASID, CAPS, LEED or some other certification – give proof of competence and professionalism. Showcasing awards and news stories also adds credibility, proving that your firm can not only create beautiful designs, but also execute them at the highest level.

In this month’s issue, KBDN looks at a selection of kitchen and bath showrooms, each of which took a different approach to inspiring trust, creativity and client comfort. However, it should be noted that great showrooms aren’t just about following a specific formula. Rather, they’re about figuring out what makes your business unique and creating a space that sells that.

Even the most brilliant marketing won’t compensate for a failure to understand who you are and what your business stands for. Because, while first impressions count, equally important is how subsequent visits measure up to that first impression.

I noticed this at one animal hospital, where a professional image was undermined by lost intake forms and contradictory medicine info; likewise, a “warm and fuzzy” feeling was quickly dispelled by a sign that threatened to “dispose of” pets not picked up and paid for by their scheduled release date.

Similarly, a great showroom that makes a dynamite first impression will still not win and keep customers if follow up visits don’t reflect the showroom’s original promise.

As summer winds down, give your showroom a fresh look to see whether it’s an accurate representation of who you are. Sure, it’s great to look at product displays, signage and all of the things that make a great first impression, but don’t stop there. Second, third and fourth impressions count, too.

Remember, when it comes to your showroom, creating a true “wow effect” is as much about consistency of purpose as aesthetic delights.