Psychologists have long believed that when you meet someone, it takes just a few moments for them to form an opinion about you, and that opinion will inform how they’ll interact with you from that point onwards. While that’s true for most human interactions, the principle applies with greater consequence in business settings. Whatever business you are in, clients and customers probably have to make snap decisions on whether to give you their business, so your first interaction with them should be carefully managed to ensure that you don’t put out any negative signals that may cost you their business. That first interaction will determine whether the potential client will even be open to doing business with you, and it will also set the tone for any subsequent interactions you’ll have with that person. Creating a great first impression is the first step in having outstanding levels of customer satisfaction. You can find out what the most important elements for improving customer satisfaction and repeat business here.
In this article, we will discuss the importance of making a great first impression, as well as some of the things that you can do to impress your client during that initial interaction.
The moment clients walk into the lobby of your office building, they’ll start forming impressions about your business. They’ll gauge your level of professionalism based on the appearance of your reception area, your offices and conference room, the art on your walls, and most importantly, how clean and tidy your whole premises appear to be. Clients will also take into account the first human contact that they get in your office. If the receptionist comes across as unhappy, unprofessional, or even indifferent, clients will feel as though their presence is a bother to your business, and they may opt to go elsewhere. For some clients, shortcomings in your business’ first impression may only register at a subconscious level. They may not know exactly why they don’t like your business, but they’ll decide based on gut instinct not to work with you.
So, how do you make sure that your clients get a great first impression upon visiting your offices? Well, you have to make sure that your office is clean and presentable. No client is going to feel comfortable hanging out in a dirty office. You should hire a contract cleaning service to professionally clean your offices regularly so that every time a client comes to see you, they’ll be welcomed into an immaculate space. Your contract cleaners should pay special attention to the bathroom; having your clients use a dirty bathroom is probably the most embarrassing thing that can happen to your business, and it would absolutely ruin your first impression. Aside from keeping a clean office, hire a receptionist who will be warm, friendly and professional at all times.
When making a sales pitch to clients or customers, make sure that you come across and caring and trustworthy. You should be polite to your customers; try to answer their questions and address their concerns with a lot of patience, and avoid using a condescending tone. Remember that the client is always right, and there is no such thing as a silly question. Your facial expressions and your body language should give a warm impression, and you should always say please and thank you. Address every client by his or her name, and listen actively to whatever they have to say. This advice may seem obvious to you if you have a sales background, but unfortunately, many people who start their own businesses these days don’t have any sales training, and they lose clients because of simple mistakes that can easily be avoided.
When a potential client or customer calls your offices, they’ll form a first impression based on how their call is answered. If the client is put on hold for a long time, he may decide to hang up right away and contact your competitor instead. If you must put your callers on hold, make sure that you are polite about it, and that you apologize for it when you finally take their call. Of course, the best option is to pick up their calls immediately.
Whoever answers the phone (whether it’s you, your secretary, or your call centre personnel) should mention the name of the business, tell the client who they are talking to, and ask how they can be of assistance. Your employees should avoid answering the phone with informal retorts. They should also be trained to avoid stuttering or sounding nervous because this creates tension and it may derail the phone conversation. Your employees should be prepared for the kind of questions the customer is likely to ask over the phone because clients will be put off if they can’t get straight answers right away.