Have you ever been in a store and had a fellow customer mistake you for an employee? For some people, it seems to happen a lot. Maybe they just have a face that makes people think they work at the store. However, sometimes the confusion is a matter of dress. People see what they believe is a company uniform and just assume the person in question is an employee.
There are lessons to be learned here; lessons pertaining to how people perceive work clothing. They tell us just how important it is for employees to be dressed in a certain way in order to project a certain image. The right uniforms make a world of difference in customer-facing positions.
Confusion at the Repair Shop
Illustrating the point is an excellent post written by Tire Business contributor Dan Marinucci. As an auto repair industry writer, Marinucci travels around reviewing auto repair shops. He spends a lot of time in service bays and behind customer service counters. Sometimes he is mistaken for an employee of the shop he is reviewing.
In his recent column, Marinucci mentions his decision to buy blue lab coats he might wear while he’s working in dirty service bays. He wrote how the lab coats often lead people to mistakenly believe he is the service manager or shop manager. People come right up to him and ask questions about service, costs, etc. He has to explain that he doesn’t really work there.
That aspect of Marinucci’s piece is quite compelling on its own. What makes it more interesting is this: at some of the shops he visits, his mistaken identity is exacerbated by the fact that managers do not wear uniforms that look any different from their techs. Marinucci thinks this is a mistake.
Uniforms Can Erase Confusion
Utah-based Alsco is a company offering uniform rental and other linen services nationwide. Company management agrees with Marinucci’s position on management uniforms, explaining that different uniforms can erase confusion among customers. The car repair shop is a great illustration here.
Customers expect repair techs to be dressed in typical mechanic’s clothing. When they go looking for a manager, they tend to look for someone dressed differently. Perhaps they are expecting dress slacks and a polo shirt. Or maybe they expect a uniform similar to their technicians’ but with different colors. Regardless, no distinct uniform for managers makes it more difficult for customers to identify them. This can leave them confused.
Appropriate and Well-Maintained Uniforms
Marinucci makes another point in his piece, a point that is equally important: uniform condition matters. His travels afford him the opportunity to see all kinds of work uniforms in America’s auto repair shops. Some of those uniforms are threadbare and old. They do not project a very professional image.
Both Marinucci and Alsco management agree that company uniforms should be appropriate to the business and well maintained at all times. Employees should never wear worn-out uniforms with stains, holes, etc. Faded colors and worn logos are no good either.
People who pay attention to uniforms for a living, like Marinucci, know how important image is. They know that companies willing to pay attention to uniform details are the same companies that are extremely careful to guard their brands and images. These are the kinds of companies that would never think of sending employees out to face the public in worn, threadbare uniforms.
Next time someone mistakes you for a store employee, take a look at what you are wearing. You might be better dressed than the employees who work there.