First Impressions – Make or Break

First impressions are lasting impressions which a new customer or patient gains in just a few seconds and can quickly pass on to many other potential clients. Consider then the lasting impact of an unprepared, awkward 5 minute opening conversation or even worse a 5 minute wait on the end of an unanswered telephone line – more than enough time to make or break a valuable, long-term relationship.

Put yourself into the shoes of your customer and all you really want and expect is an efficient, professional service provided by knowledgeable people who are interested in you as a person and give you their full attention. Anything less and the customer is likely to vote with their feet, walk away and most likely complain about you to their family, friends and colleagues – even worse in the era of social media and on-line reviews they will tell the world just how frustrating it is to deal with you.

When did you last Mystery-Shop your own reception or business enquiry line? An independent call and feedback report is an easy and effective way to identify barriers which may be driving new business and customers away. The results can be used to prioritise improvements to your first impressions strategy and are valuable for training staff. Contact me  if you would like more details and a special offer for your first report.

Remember that your business brand goes well beyond the smart, colourful logo, matching uniforms and co-ordinated paintwork – consistent, professional and supportive customer service standards are far more important. The whole team should be given training & guidance on how to welcome customers, respond to common questions, handle basic objections consistently and refer customers on seamlessly for more detailed support.

Phone calls should be answered within 5 or 6 rings and engaged tones should be avoided at all costs – there are many ways around this using multiple lines, all available staff, voice-mail and even diversion of calls to an external bureau at peak times. What is your strategy?

Agree a standard but friendly and natural welcome for customers which is comfortably used by the whole team.

Consider the different type of phone calls which you may receive including new customer enquiries, product information, appointments, cancellations, complaints, call-outs and agree an outline script for each which maximises customer service and minimises lost sales opportunities. Train your team to be comfortable with these scripts and avoid being too prescriptive to keep the human touch – nobody likes role-playing but this really does work and can be fun. Far better to stumble over the wording with a colleague than a valuable customer. As with any change, involve your team in wording the scripts for maximum buy-in.

Make sure your team are always on the look out for opportunities to help customers with products and services your business has to offer – this used to be called sales but remember that an effective sale is simply providing the customer with a solution to a need they have at the right price. Good product knowledge is essential for front-line staff, as is knowing when and how to seamlessly pass the caller on to a colleague who can better assist. Understanding and resolving a customer’s need quickly is a great first impression and great for your bottom line.

Remember that complaints can often strengthen a business relationship if handled professionally, quickly and fairly – the customer has given you an opportunity to resolve rather than just walking away so make good use of it.

Many businesses only get to spend a short period of time with new and existing customers – treat every interaction as a golden opportunity to create and develop a trusting and valuable relationship which will reap rewards over time. That 5 minute phone call which you are struggling to answer may be the last time you speak with your customer for a long time and will always leave a lasting impression of some kind – make sure it is a good one!

For support with improving your First Impression strategy and a discounted Mystery Shop report Contact Me today.


First Impressions – Make or Break

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