“WOW, we have arrived!” – creating a sense of arrival

By John Dickson | Chairman 

The sense of arrival. The goal of this “moment” is to WOW your arriving customers from the beginning – to validate their selection that choosing or returning to your venue was the best decision they made.

The sense of arrival is the special feeling a customer experiences during the first few seconds or so after arriving at your location.

A sense of arrival is critical, as it sets a tone for the customers’ visit. Done well, the guest is reassured and excited about their visit.

Influencing the senses when arriving at a venue can significantly influence, either negatively or positively, the level of anticipation and ultimately the enjoyment or otherwise of the venue.

The expectation is influenced very much by the environment when arriving at a venue,.  For example, when entering the foyer of a five-star Sheraton Hotel, the environment certainly conditions your expectation of the quality of service and product, as well as the anticipation of a superior experience.  Another great example is Fairfield RSL.  This venue sets the mood and tone as you are approaching the front door and prepares you for the experience you’re expecting to receive once inside the front doors.

Conversely, if you arrive at a venue with faded signage, rubbish in the car park, smokers around the front entrance, dozens of confusing signs everywhere, no personal welcoming and an unpleasant smell with no piped music, then you will have already been conditioned for an unpleasant experience and wonder whether you should stay.

If you have been conditioned by your sense of arrival to have a good time, then you are more likely to stay longer and spend more, than someone who has been conditioned for a not so pleasant experience. A positive sense of arrival also reinforces a desire to return.

So what are some of the key points for a positive and welcoming sense of arrival?

Street Signage

Clean and easy to read modern signage may be the first sense of arrival influence. Signs which are old and faded, have cluttered messages, are hard to read, or have missing/broken lights will certainly not send a positive message.

Car Park

  1. Can the car park access be found easily enough? Access should be wide enough and attractive with flowers, shrubbery, flags, etc.
  2. Well sealed tarmac and spacious line markings. Tight car parks can be a negative impact, particularly for older patrons.
  3. Ample Lighting. Lighting must be of a significant level so that customers feel safe in the car park in the evening.
  4. Visible security. Particularly in large car parks, the presence of uniformed security personnel perhaps with a security dog walking the car park can be a significantly positive influence.
  5. Covered parking. A new trend emerging in ground level car parks, for obvious reasons (heat and weather protection) they provide a very positive sense of arrival.
  6. Attractive plantings. Most car parks have islands throughout to break up the car park. These islands provide a creative opportunity for colourful planting and low shrubbery. If the shrubbery is too large it can create a security issue, particularly in the evening.
  7. Signage within the car park to the entry. More often than not we can’t see the wood for the trees when we are working in a venue every day. Finding your way to the entrance once you have parked your car, particularly if it’s your first visit, can be frustrating if it is not clear. This is more so if it’s a large car park or in a tourist location.
  8. Car park cleanliness is paramount. There would be little point in meeting all of the above positive car park sense of arrival points if there is rubbish around the car park. It is absolutely amazing how many car parks I arrive at only to find rubbish in the car park. It shows lack of care by the venue management, which in turn influences expectations of the venue negatively.

Entrance (External)

  1. Cleanliness again is critical as customers approach the entrance. In particular, is the glass cleaned from fingerprints and is the roof above clear from cobwebs?
  2. Welcoming signage. It would appear that many venues have not got the message – customers do not read signs, particularly if there are numerous signs in different sizes as customers approach the venue. There is an old communication rule “one message at a time”, so an uncluttered entrance enhances the sense of arrival, minimalist is the right strategy.
  3. Welcoming floor coverings. Before you enter, nothing says welcoming more than a soft mat under your feet with perhaps a welcoming slogan.
  4. Potted shrubbery and outdoor furniture can greatly enhance the positive sense of arrival before a customer enters the venue. It is easy to do and not expensive.
  5. Piped music is one of the most influential environmental aesthetics to influence customers’ feelings, so the right music at the right volume before a customer enters the venue can create a relaxing positive mood. Get it wrong and it will be a big negative.

1entranceFoyer (Internal)

  1. Nothing creates a more positive sense of arrival than being welcomed by a well-groomed, happy person as a customer enters. This is as opposed to the old reception desk where they might struggle to get the receptionist’s attention who is answering the phone or working on a computer, and as a result feel their presence is an interruption.
  2. 1foyer-2Real, fresh flowers and potted plants create a fresh and relaxing environment. If you choose artificial vertical gardens or other types (which let’s face it the difference can be hard to tell apart these days) don’t forget about them!  They must be kept clean and free of dust, and look as fresh as the real thing.
  3. Comfortable, clean furniture says welcome more than most other things, so make sure there is plenty in your entrance (without overcrowding it of course).
  4. Music sets the mood. Too many venues not only have the wrong music for their demographics but also the wrong volume. So rather than the music being an asset to the sense of arrival, it becomes an annoyance. The same can be said, sadly, for music inside many venues, whether it be piped or live.
  5. The sense of smell is another important element in creating the right sense of arrival. An unpleasant odour from old dirty carpet, smelly toilets, or staff with bad breath is an immediate turnoff. Today there are modern systems that will pump aroma into various areas of a venue.  They are not expensive and, when used correctly, will add a subtle and pleasant aroma that creates a positive feeling.

Not only is creating the right sense of arrival good for business, it says a lot about the care and pride that management and staff take in their venue. A poor sense of arrival engenders poor expectation. It creates the perception that management and staff take little or no pride and care, not only in their venue but possibly in their product and services.

Compare your venue against the key points discussed and rate your sense of arrival. For more information on how to create a positive sense of arrival for your venue, contact John Dickson on (07) 3878 9355 or at john@dws.net.au.


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