The customer centric toilet business

Written by Monique Jansen for Buljan & Partners Consulting

In December 2011, I made the artistic picture shown below, situated in the Kalverstraat in Amsterdam.  I was there on one of my family visits, and that day I was searching for last- minute Christmas presents in one of Amsterdam’s main shopping areas.

It is not unusual to see new and trendy things in Amsterdam, but 2theLoo really surprised me. And, as in many other occasions when I see new shops, start-up companies or new tendencies; my first thought was “why did I not think of this great idea?”

A busy shopping street, no public toilets anywhere in sight, the nearest restaurants outside the shopping route, and of course, nature calls. What could be better than not having to interrupt a shopping exercise but just enter one of the many attractive retail outlets, and go to a clean and nicely decorated loo?

In most other occasion when this happens (nature calling), we tend to walk around for looking for a decent public toilet, uneasy, and then if we do find and visit a public toilet, we get so disgusted that we want to go home straight away, as we find that there is no toilet paper, and the chance that you leave with some kind of stain on our clothes or bags is almost 100%. An alternative is entering a bar and order something as we feel obliged to spend money when we want to use the toilet. In many of those occasions, the toilets in bars are no better than the free public ones.

2theLoo are not the first to discover and satisfy this human need. Paid toilets have been around for many years in other big cities around the world. I have paid for clean toilets in Pounds, Yens, Dollars and Euros.  Somehow, in Spain, that concept had not sank in yet.

But 2theLoo offers more than other relatively clean and paid public toilets do; it also offers toilet related products for man, women and babies. They cater for unexpected circumstances, and strive for customer satisfaction and unique customer experiences.  2theLoo satisfies a human need, and they do so intelligently and in style.  

I personally prefer to pay for a nice and clean toilet then spending the same money on a beer. For only 50 cents or at the most 1 euro, I can have an excellent customer experience. You decide.

Now 2theLoo is coming to town: Finally, Madrid will have 2theLoo’s from December 2013 onwards. The first 2theLoo in Spain opened in April 2012, in shopping center Maremagnum, Barcelona, and it is a huge success.

The news of the Madrid opening broke about 2 weeks ago. 2theLoo, the Dutch innovators in the private toilet business, have won a 7 year highly priced concession of the Madrid Atocha train station toilets in the main waiting areas: the big hall with the botanical garden, and in the cercanías area. It was about time. And a great financial deal for ADIF, the Spanish railway station company too.  At the moment they estimate the price per visit to be around 60 euro cents. More info in this article (in Spanish).

Unfortunately the news of a private toilet service was launched in a period in which privatization of other public services – highly important ones like hospitals – is all over the media, and in the ordinary citizens’ minds. Those privatization plans seem to be, according to the labor unions and the press, compromising quality of service and working conditions for involved staff. So, in this light, the general press found it necessary to be skeptical about the 2theLoo Atocha plans. Instead of focusing on increasing customer service, the initial headlines screamed “Atocha public toilets will no longer be for free”. Apart from this being not true (ADIF states the toilets in the boarding areas will still be free) I personally think the press was wrong to take the decision to manipulate public opinion. I would have made a headline like this “Finally, Madrid Atocha will offer excellent customer toilet experience”.

Madrid Atocha main hall current public toilets are even worse you can imagine. The smell is horrendous. On the few occasions that I had no other choice then to attend, I left truly in distress. Therefor I think 2theLoo will do an excellent job in Madrid Atocha, and that there is a demand from the general public who are willing to pay for a clean toilet, enjoy the experience and talk or even write about it. I also want to praise ADIF for taking this bold step towards customer centricity in a country where, so far, free toilets is a considered a “human right”.

Who wants to be the next to tell us about their customer centric toilet experience?

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