Column: Be the director of first impressions


Commentary by Jon Quick

If you have a business, do not do any advertising — until you include at the top of your marketing plan a section called “First Impressions.” It is the most important marketing you can do.

There is nothing that will turn off a customer more than a bad first impression. A grumpy receptionist. A staff that has forgotten how to smile. A waitress that just doesn’t seem to care.

Seconds after you enter a business, you get a first impression. The same when you call them. If you encounter someone who just doesn’t seem to care, it’s the beginning of the end.

This is such basic stuff, but it’s amazing how many business owners fail to require employees to practice the art of making a great first impression.

A one-time law firm client of mine really gets it. The receptionist who both greets clients and answers the phone has a title. She is the Director of First Impressions. They realize that a first impression can make or break a relationship. She takes her job very seriously.

Granted, everyone has a bad day. But don’t take it out on the customer. Work in the background until your attitude improves.

I went to a new doctor. I waited two hours. They apologized and said someone called in sick so they were way behind. I understood how that could happen. Then I went back for a follow-up. Same treatment. This time 2 1/2 hours. I didn’t go back.

So basic, but it’s amazing how many businesses break the rule.

Great first impressions are critical. Tell your staff from Day 1 that it’s a requirement. Maybe the most important part. You know the routine: Smile, greet them cheerfully when they arrive, remember names of your best customers, ask if they need assistance, maintain eye contact and remember the customer is always right. Even if they are not.

Many businesses have survived while others have passed on because they made great service a priority. In these days of websites, social media and the myriad of ways to advertise, there’s still nothing more important as you build that marketing plan. Put on a smile. And have a nice day.