First Impressions

Some of my clients ask me if there is one simple thing they can share with their employees that will make the biggest impact for better customer service. This is not easy, as there is no quick fix for problem service or some miracle elixir that by magic will transform an organization into a first class customer driven company. It is a combination of many things put together. But there is a simple concept. It falls back on the original concept of managing the Moment of Truth and creating Moments of Magic.

The simple concept I am talking about has to do with managing the first impression. I am not talking about meeting someone for the first time, although that is obviously a first impression. I am talking about the first impression we make that may set the tone for any interaction that is to follow.

Here is a very basic example. When you walk into work in the morning, how do you greet your coworkers? Do you strive for a positive early morning greeting? Or, are you one of those people who claim not to be an “early morning” person – at least not until you have had your three cups of coffee? So, what if you are not an “early morning” person. Your goal is to make the people you work with want to be around you the rest of the day. Your early-morning greeting is simply setting the tone for any interaction that is to follow.

How do you dress for success? Dressing for success does not mean wearing a business suit, tie, etc. It means dressing appropriately for the situation.

What do your body language and facial expressions tell people? Body language, eye contact, facial expressions are read, sensed and interpreted by those around you.

How do you answer the phone? Do the people calling you feel that you welcome their call, or do they feel as if they are an interruption?

All of these, and more go toward setting a positive “first” impression.

My assistant, Lois Creamer, called to congratulate a business associate on an outstanding news article that appeared in the St. Louis paper about his company. Let’s call this person Bob.

Bob answered Lois’ phone call curtly. Lois immediately knew he was busy and started to feel uncomfortable. So, she just said, “Hi Bob, it’s Lois Creamer from Shep’s office.”

Bob said in a sharp, almost angry tone of voice, “Lois, I am real busy and I can’t talk.”

Lois said, “I can tell. All I wanted to do was congratulate you on the great article in the paper. Good-bye.”

There was a moment of silence as Bob realized that all Lois wanted to do was compliment him. He sheepishly said, “Good-bye.”

In this case, Bob got a double whammy. He not only gave off a negative first impression with his curt greeting, but he also caused himself a lot of embarrassment.

By the way, Bob called back later to apologize about the way he acted on the phone.

What if the person calling Bob hadn’t been Lois, but instead an important customer? Would he or she have been as forgiving as Lois? Imagine the “back peddling ” Bob would have had to do to get the client to feel comfortable with having called him.

Hopefully Bob learned a lesson that day. If he was too busy to answer the phone he should let a receptionist or his voice mail pick it up.

As mentioned before, these first impressions come in many forms beyond greetings. Pay attention to what your non-verbal actions are saying. Managing the first impression simply lets you start off on a positive note. Why should you start a conversation or a meeting at a psychological deficit?

It has been written that it takes many more good things to make up for a single bad thing in business. Most of the statistics range between eight to twelve good things to make up for a Moment of Misery. One good thing does not fix a bad thing or make things even. You have to go much further than getting back to even to renew the confidence in a customer.

Managing the first impression is so simple, so why make it hard on yourself? Simply manage the impression and set a positive tone for any interaction that is to follow. It all helps toward creating those MOMENTS OF MAGIC for your customers.