I had a client once who wanted me to evaluate her business, a beauty product shop, and suggest possible changes. When I visited the premises, there was nothing much more that I could have suggested, as the actual interior design of the shop was really nice and reflected the brand of the business very well.
Having said that, I noticed that the employees working there could have benefited from some training. The customer service was simply horrible! It was clear that the young girls had been hired basically for their looks but had absolutely no experience in sales.
Sometimes the actual built environment might be very close to perfect, yet the human factor, the customer service of a commercial place, be that a retail, service or hospitality business, may need drastic redesign.
The opposite is also true, some places may lack in design and function but their personnel may be so competent and offer the client such a pleasurable experience that it may compensate for it. Knowing the fine line of balance between the two is important as it may mean the success or failure of a business.
There is a lot one can get away with regarding the physical environment as long as the human environment is top of the line. Whereas there is virtually nothing one can do for a perfectly designed space if the employees and owner running the business do not or do not know how to offer their clients the experience the later are hoping to have by visiting that space.
So if it comes to having to choose between investing in excellent, expensive interior design or hiring the best people for the job, I would say the later makes more sense. Especially if what you sell needs a salesperson to be sold and is not a mass produced item that can be picked up from a shelf.
Anything to do with hospitality, restauration, service industry, personal care, and in general anything where there is a need for interaction in order for the customer to leave happy and satisfied, customer service is of utmost importance.
Expensive, high end products such as expensive jewellery, art, clothing, furniture etc do need some attention to the interior design, as it directly reflects and represents the brand itself. Yet even there one can reduce the costs by opting for a minimalistic design with simple yet good quality materials.
On the other hand, no matter how expensive the jewellery shop for example, if the employee working there does not provide top notch service, the clients are not going to be willing to give their money to somebody who doesn't treat them right.
It may seem unbelievable but there are businesses which do not pay any attention whatsoever to the quality of their customer service as if they think their product is so good and exclusive that it will sell by itself.
One of the unfortunately typical behaviours encountered in high end shops, is that some of the employees working there tend to adopt the identity of the brand and behave according to their personal perception of it and what it represents or what they think the ideal client of that brand would behave like.
There we may end up with less than desirable and ridiculous occurrences whereby the sales person may behave with an attitude but with an interesting twist : Being subservient to the obviously rich and arrogant and dismissive to the not so obviously well-off client. This can be quite tricky as one can never know who the client might actually be or whether they can or cannot afford the products.
The point is that every client should be treated equally and with the same respect and effort to please and serve. That is what makes a business stand out and creates repeat customers. An authentic instead of a show-off attitude. One that stems from a genuine willingness to make the client feel welcome, their wants and needs acknowledged, respected and satisfied. That is usually what separates the long term brands from the casual, make-money-quick or mediocre ones. That is what gives them the class and quality of service that their clients are seeking and going there for in the first place.
So apart from the famous rule of Location-location-location for business success, the second most important if not even more important is the human factor and customer service. When you got these two in place, everything else will follow. Redesign of a business space does not necessarily concern only the actual built or physical environment, but includes and incorporates the human factor as well. In the case of commercial properties, it is about not only how the client perceives and experiences the space per se, but also about how they are made to feel by the sales person and the quality of customer service provided in that space.