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When Ugly Plants Are a Broken Window

in Why Plantscaping

Or…How to Drastically Boost Your Ambiance and Customer Experience in Ten Minutes or Less

It was an impressive lineup of people waiting to board a cruise ship (not meant as a compliment). Impressive as in, three and four people deep for over 200 yards. Yikes!

Norwegian Cruise Line is aware this is a bummer sense of arrival as people wait to board the ship, so when the passengers arrive into “their space,” the terminal, they wanted to change the mood. Whether changing the mood of people or a place, we call that, “creating ambiance.”

What did NCL do to create ambiance and change the mood? They added live potted plants. Smart company you’re thinking, right? Not so fast.

When you think of all the possible choices to create ambiance and beautiful space, live plants and decorative containers are definitely a smart choice. Smart that is, unless they’re ugly. The Hawaiian Ficus (Ficus Alli) I saw as I turned the corner and entered the terminal was ugly with a capital UGH! Picture of plant and weary traveler below.

When a business overlooks small details that create a negative perception in the minds of their clients, prospects, or guests, that’s called a “broken window.” *see footnote below about the book: Broken Windows, Broken Business

So here it is, the super-secret technique for boosting your ambiance score in ten minutes or less…get rid of your ugly plants and planters.

And I don’t mean add new ones or call Interior Plant Scapes (but the lines are open).  Flat out, get rid of your ugly potted plants! They’re killing your business. Seriously, go back to your sterile sidewalks and lackluster lobby, and your scores automatically jump up.

Your Ambiance as a Number Score

Track with me on this. If you were to rate your facility’s ambiance as a negative 1, and then add live potted plants so that the score raised to a plus 10, that’s a big win. When the plants are neglected and become ugly, your score doesn’t drop back to negative 1. Not by a long shot. Your score drops to a negative 10, or worse. Your ugly plants are now a big broken window sending negative messages about every other aspect of your business. Perception is reality in the mind of your clients and prospects.

Possible ugly plant perceptions (broken windows):

  • There’s no attention to detail 
  • Doing business here is nothing special
  • If this is their public area, I wonder if the kitchen is clean

How Could This Happen?

It’s a frequent ambiance killing scenario. The General Manager sees the need to add some warmth and life to the exterior front entry or lobby. Instead of calling the professionals, he says to the maintenance staff, “Hey John can you run up to Home Depot and buy some live plants and planters, we’re going into season and want this area to look great.”

Dutifully, John is off to Homey’s, and the next day the plants are in place, and the once sterile entry is now fresh and inviting. Done! Check that off the list. That’s when the trouble starts. 

John gets busy keeping his other plates spinning, forgets to water the plants, and they slowly decline.  

The Curse of the Familiar

If you really want to get your arms around the ambiance-killing broken windows at your facility, check out our article this month about The Curse of the Familiar. It’s an eye-opening lesson about how to step back from your own property with a “fresh set of eyes.”

The good news is we have an Ambiance Assessment that includes trained eyes, and fresh eyes.

More good news…my wife Crystal and I did enjoy our cruise, even if NCL’s plants seriously needed our company’s brand of love and attention.

*Broken Windows Broken Business
How the Smallest Remedies, Reap the Biggest Rewards

Social psychologists and criminologists agree that if a window in a building is broken and left un-repaired, soon thereafter the rest of the windows will be broken – and the perception will build that crime in that neighborhood is out of control. The same principle applies to business.

Author, Levine proves again and again how constant vigilance and an obsession with detail can make or break a business or a brand.  Broken Windows, Broken Business goes straight to the heart of what makes all enterprises successful – the little things that mean a lot.

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