"Do this, don't do that can't you read the sign?"

In providing superior customer experiences, it is imperative to understand that our “place” is a major channel of service delivery.

“Place” is defined as the physical or virtual expression of our brand and includes signage, floors, doorways, ceilings, website, collaterals, forms, parking lots, clothing, restrooms, etc. So, the opportunity that a little signage TLC offers to strengthen your brand and your customer experience is worth much more than the effort it takes!

Recently while on vacation, in places that I had never been, I was extremely alert to the signage that would direct our family to where we needed to go and information we needed to know. On this journey we encountered signage of all types-signs that I would give a failing grade and signs that I would give an A+.

The key to good signage: TRUST YOUR CUSTOMER.

Signage generally fits into these 5 categories:

1. Offers way finding
2. Anticipates needs (payment options, hours of operation, etc.)
3. Tells people how to maintain an environment
4. Directs people to comply with a process, policy or procedure
5. Communicates safety guidelines

It is fairly simple to create courteous signage messages for items 1-2 above. Where it gets a bit tricky is crafting messages for items 3-5. The best way motivate people to comply with these items is to ask for cooperation rather than give a directive. Working on the premise that the overwhelming majority of people will want to comply when asked politely, it behooves us to concentrate on messaging that shows that we trust our customers to do the right thing. Those that don’t comply wouldn’t-even if you demanded they do-so let’s not sacrifice offending the masses in order to force demands on the non-compliant!

Signage can deteriorate your brand and your customer experience.

The worst sign of all is the messy handwritten sign that shares an equally messy message. These signs are usually written when an employee is desperate or angry- it is usually taped up and dirty, splattered on, been there a long time- tape is yellowing. You have seen them- they are written from the business’s perspective and state emotional demands that tell customers to comply so the business will benefit. These signs send all the wrong customer service messages and help to create a less-than-superior customer experience.

Prime offenders of failing signage are generally public sector organizations that are steeped in policy and procedures. Granted, sometimes working with the public can make you feel like you have to S-P-E-L-L O-U-T everything, and that is OK-just do it in a courteous, respectful manner that considers the customer experience. Courteous, thoughtful signage is usually not even considered at these organizations. Courtesy is considered irrelevant because the main goal is to simply get people to comply to a policy or procedure.

Signage can strengthen your brand and your customer experience.

Strengthen your relationship with your customers by delivering customer service through your signage. Create respectful, courteous signage that provides needed information, asks for cooperation and overall allows customers to enhance their experience and in effect benefits your organization.

Here are 7 signage guidelines and examples to help you create customer experience enhancing messages:

  1. If it is a message worth sharing, it is worth making a professional sign to share it
  2. Mind your “P’s and Q’s”- use courteous phrases like “please” and “thank you”
  3. Do drive behavior based on cooperation vs punishment by asking for cooperation vs demanding compliance, ie “Please help us...” vs “Don’t...”
  4. Refrain from stating negative consequences to certain behaviors, ie “If you do not comply you will be removed from the premises”
  5. State items in a positive way, ie “Please do this (list behaviors)” and “Please refrain from this (list behaviors)”
  6. Provide a quick explanation as to why you are asking/requesting cooperation, ie “Please help us keep our park clean by disposing of trash in the green trash cans located throughout the grounds”
  7. Create characters, personas, or mascots that help support the message and strengthen your brand

Great examples of signage that informs, asks for cooperation, strengthens brand and customer experiences can be found at:


The Biltmore Estate

Hilton Garden Inn

Walt Disney World

Share your great signage messages below for us all to see!

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*Quote courtesy of The Five Man Electrical Band


ABOUT DONNELLY EFFECT: With over 20 years of Disney leadership experience, Mike Donnelly, Chief Experience Officer (CEO) of Donnelly Effect shares his insights on Talent Selection and Hiring, Employee Onboarding, Customer Experience, Workplace Culture and Leadership- among others. Donnelly Effect is home of the exclusive "World-Class Workshop" series and offers consulting services and keynote addresses to audiences of all sizes and industries. Since 2004, Mike Donnelly has been a contracted Disney Institute Facilitator, delivering Disney training to audiences across the United States.