“There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.” ~ Malcome Gladwell ~ author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about first impressions, especially as to how first impressions influence customer decisions and I believe Gladwell’s quote exposes a lot of truisms when it comes to customer decisions. Let me illustrate with a rather unpleasant experience I had not too long ago. I had viewed a brief episode on one of the cooking channels during a rare moment of TV viewing and heard raving reviews about the chicken fried steak available at a diner in nearby San Antonio. Being Texas born and raised, chicken fried steak is sort of its own food group for me. So, the next time I was near this particular diner, I gave it a try. The meal was respectable and upon finishing, I deducted that I could probably do it again in the future, but then after paying for my meal, I made the fatal mistake of going to the men’s room. I will never set foot in this diner again.
We’ve all heard it said that, “you only get one chance to make a good first impression”. I don’t believe that to be a true statement. I believe, especially when it comes to dealing with customers, we have many opportunities to make a great first impression and if we mess up any one of those opportunities, we risk losing that customer.
Referring back to this particular diner, the food was acceptable, the prices were reasonable and the service was good – that’s three good first impressions this establishment made, and while the kitchen may very well have been spotless, one look at the restroom raised some serious doubts in my mind.
Just to use the self-storage industry as an example, think of all the various “first impressions” that must be made to each and every customer we come into contact with. Here is just a partial list:
● answering the phone – are we smiling (it transfers through your voice) and able to answer their questions professionally?
● what the customer sees when they drive up to our office – is there trash in the parking lot or does the landscape need work?
● what the customer sees when they open the office door – is there clutter all around and dirty countertops, floors and windows?
● how the customer is greeted – did you speak first or did you unintentionally give the impression that they were interrupting you?
● how you appear to the customer – are you dressed professionally, well groomed prepared to meet someone for the very first time?
● how you met their needs – are you knowledgeable, a good listener and able to give helpful advice?
● were you prepared and organized or was your presentation more like a comedy of errors?
● when they excused themselves to the restroom, was is spotless with a good supply of toilet paper, soap and paper towels?
● when you take them out to show a space, was your golf cart clean and professional or did they have visions of the Joad family trekking to Californey in The Grapes of Wrath?
● were all of the spaces you showed them clean or was there an unpleasant surprise waiting behind door number 3?
I can go on and on, but the point I want to make is – any one of these bad first impressions could easily cost a rental and potentially a lost customer forever, as well as the bad publicity they might give to their friends and family about the unpleasant experience they had in YOUR RESTROOM!
I think you do get more than one chance to make a great first impression. I also think one bad first impression can ruin a number of good ones. It’s kind of like going on a first date. Everything could be hunky dory and then when you sit down to eat at a nice restaurant you discover your date has the table manners of hyena – it just sort of ruins things.
When it comes to impressing our customers, nothing is unimportant. Attention to detail must be the mantra we live by and we must elevate our own standards. What may be unimportant to us may be extremely important to our customers. Don’t let one bad first impression destroy all of your hard work. As Gladwell said, a poor impression made in the blink of an eye can erase months of work.
- These Are The Insights That Made Malcolm Gladwell Famous (businessinsider.com)
- Telephone Answering (kendlebellcountydublin.wordpress.com)
- The Four Golden Rules for Entrepreneurs (hiscoxusa.com)