Uniform Service: Outfitting employees with uniforms projects professionalism and consistency for your customers

Oct. 1, 2001

Uniform Service

Outfitting employees with uniforms projects professionalism and consistency for your customers

By Michelle Garetson

October 2001

It’s been said that "You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression." Walking into your facility today, what sort of "first impression" would be given? Does your company have and/or enforce a dress code? Do employees wear uniforms or do they look like they’ve fished their shirt and trousers out of the laundry hamper? While many businesses offer the same products, it’s often the customer’s visual perception of how professional or experienced a company is that will make them bring their aircraft to your facility or to the one across the field. Consistency of dress through a uniform approach can help to promote professionalism inside, as well as outside, the hangar.

Branding the company
Used correctly, uniforms are a relatively inexpensive, but effective marketing tool to enhance a company’s image and create brand awareness for customers. If your company does not enforce a dress code or have a uniform program, the company’s image and brand could be compromised for future business.
Distinct colors and logos differentiate your company from the myriad of others offering like products and services. Think of it in terms of sports teams — everyone who follows a team knows that team by its colors and emblem. As with any branded product, a familiar "package" strengthens credibility and promotes brand loyalty. Companies, big and small, want and need customer loyalty to ensure repeat business. Uniforms can be a viable strategy for small businesses to compete right alongside the large franchises.

Uniform concerns
The word "uniform" conjures up different definitions for different people. Some interpretations may include:
• Uniforms are drab and ugly.
• Uniforms do not offer individuality.
• Uniforms stereotype social status.
Arguing the first point — yes, there are some fairly dull colors and styles out there, but that’s where the team approach to this enters into the decision. Get the entire staff involved and ask what they need from both a functional standpoint as well as what fashion statement they wish to make. It may come down to a vote, but employees will appreciate the opportunity to offer input and will be more likely to accept a uniform if they are part of the decision making process.
As for the individuality concern, while it is true that everyone would be dressed the same, the employee’s individuality comes through loud and clear in their craftsmanship. Besides, the money they save from not having to buy work clothes can be used to further enhance their off-duty clothing inventory or can be spent on other personal pursuits.
Stereotypical uniforms such as those worn by fast-food workers, delivery service personnel, or even flight crews at first may suggest social status, but a closer look reveals that these outfits provide us with consistency of a brand. We all have certain expectations of those who provide a product or service. We expect a consistent food product, intact package, or successful flight from those wearing the uniform. We would be hesitant to receive a hamburger, a package, or board a plane if those folks were dressed in blue jeans and a T-shirt.

Protective cover
Uniforms also offer a protective element for the company and employees, alike.
Aircraft technicians get dirty and greasy over the course of the day and they also work with hazardous chemicals. A health safety issue comes into play if technicians are responsible for the laundering of their work clothes. Hazardous chemicals from work clothes can damage other household items in the wash if not properly separated and/or laundered. Also, the company image could become discolored and faded with inconsistencies in the quality of laundering as there are, no doubt, several levels of laundry and ironing expertise represented in the group.

In addition to the protection from heath hazards associated with home laundering of work clothes, the uniform approach in a company also offers an easily identifiable security feature for the operations. A crowded shop can, throughout the day, have any number of people walking in and amongst the staff. Granted, given the recent tragic events in New York, Washington DC and elsewhere, new security measures will more than likely be implemented immediately. Uniforms can provide one way to accomplish this task. Anyone not in a company uniform should not be in the hangar and they’ll be easy to spot because of their dissimilar attire. Have you ever noticed that in an automotive shop, the only people around the automobiles are uniformed employees? No customers, no vendors, just technicians performing their jobs.

Purchasing/Rental Options
If it is decided to convert to uniforms, what are the options? Aramark, a worldwide uniform supply company, offers a chart on its web site at www.aramark.com to help companies determine need and type of service contract.
Points to consider include:
• Employee turnover
• Soil
• Capital outlay
• Sanitation (laundering)
• Morale
Those companies that experience low turnover may want to purchase uniforms for employees, while other companies with moderate to high employee turnover should consider leasing or renting uniforms from a service.
It has already been mentioned that aircraft technicians get dirty and greasy and work with hazardous chemicals, so this puts them in the high soil category, which would lend itself to a uniform rental agreement. The front office, or other employees that do not work on aircraft, could be well served through purchasing a golf shirt or oxford shirt style uniform that incorporates company logo and colors.
Capital outlay is high for a direct purchase, but you now own the goods, while for rental uniforms, initial cost is low but renting is an ongoing expense.
Sanitation or laundering is up to the individual with direct purchase and would probably not be the best scenario for technicians. The rental option offers industrial cleaning that would eliminate the health concerns associated with chemicals and the transfer of grease and chemicals to employees’ households. Plus, industrial cleaning provides a crisp look everyday to keep the company image consistent and polished.
Surprisingly enough, morale is a valid consideration on the chart. With leasing and rental agreements, the uniform is often regarded as a benefit by employees.
Whether or not a company feels that clothes will make the man or woman at work, an enforced dress code or uniform implementation certainly will provide a united and consistent look to impress your customers with your brand of service.