How to Make a Positive First Impression for Customers

April 17, 2018

Leaving a new customer with a bad taste in their mouth can hurt your business. Elaine Dumler shares some tips to ensure that your customers keep coming back to you.

Elaine Dumler has had her fair share of negative first impressions from businesses. So, by using her expertise and her past experiences, she’s able to coach others on what not to do when it comes to your customers.

As the owner of Frankly Speaking, she’s helped corporations (such as General Electric and Johnson & Johnson) and small businesses around the world work on communication.

For Dumler, the first impression is more than just being greeted and having a service done, it’s about feeling like you’re valued as a respectable customer.

Unfortunately, the majority of the time, if a customer has a bad experience, he or she will not complain directly to the business, Dumler says. Instead, the problem is that those customers will tell other people about it and, with the rise of social media, the talk of one bad interaction is sure to get around.

Dumler shares some of the essentials to a positive first impression and what you can do to improve if you find yourself making these mistakes.

When you’re talking first impressions, you may be saying what makes a difference in the first 60 seconds. A good customer greeting is critical to the first impression. One of the biggest things in any business to make someone feel welcome is to pretend that the customer has a sign hanging around their neck that says, “Make me feel important.” Greet me fairly and promptly. If you’re the only one up front and you’re on the phone, hold up a finger and say, “Be right with you, feel free to grab a cup of coffee.” A customer is going to pick up on you not valuing his or her time and money if you fail to acknowledge him or her.

A clean environment is very important. I expect a shop to smell like a shop, but I don’t want to trip over the carpet or see the old, cracked chairs in the waiting area. A clean environment makes you feel like you take pride in what you’re doing. Have a clean coffee bar, waiting area and bathroom. Lack of cleanliness can make a negative impression very quickly.

The eye contact is critical. If you’re going to talk to me, look at me. The customer wants to feel that there is no one else but them talking to you. If you’re talking to the customer and someone else from the shop starts talking to you, he or she is the one that has to wait, not the customer. If shops are taught that, they’re not likely to do it. The customer would like to be asked for confirmation on the first encounter. What do you have going on for the day? When will you need your car? Do you need a loaner car?

Are you listening to what the customer is saying? Don’t cut him or her off. You cannot talk and listen at the same time. Even if you feel like he or she is asking stupid questions or describing things weird, you have to listen. Never, ever devalue anything a person is sharing with you. If that was your mom or dad in your shop, how would you want people to make them feel?

If you have to start somewhere, start by observing and working with the one or two people up front on their behavior. If it were me, I’d get a secret shopper to come in, try to drop a car off and see what occurs and how he or she is treated.

If there are people in the industry that focus on customer service and you think you need to improve, attend training to give you ideas to implement. Bring someone in to review the shop and make suggestions.

You need to get buy-in from the people that work for you, as well. It comes from the top down, from the people sweeping bays to the very top. If people working there feel like they’re part of a valued team, your customer service will improve.

I would also go and ask the people working the front about what they’re experiencing now. What gets in your way? What can I do to make it better for you? Are we scheduling too close? How do I make your life easier to give you a few extra minutes with the customer?

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