On average, people make a judgement about you 7 seconds after they see you, before you’ve shaken hands, before you’ve said anything more than ‘hello’. The same is true with your business. People will judge your company on the first impression they receive, long before they’ve bought your product, or met you. Therefore, making a great first impression is imperative, and you only get one chance.
How do you think people, especially prospective clients, feel when they first come into contact with your business? Exasperated? Bored? Ignored? Valued? Well-treated? There’s never been a better time to find out for sure, and if necessary, do something about it.
How not to do it
We’ve all been in those situations when you phone a company and it’s clear they haven’t thought about first impressions. You’re forced to navigate your way through a labyrinth of menus, pressing ‘1’ here and pressing ‘hash’ twice there. When you finally get to speak to a human being, they’re disinterested, unhelpful, passing the buck at the earliest opportunity. You’re asked to leave a message, but no one ever calls back. Please tell me your business isn’t like this!
The undercover caller
The reason I’m writing about this, is that at the last ABLE meeting, we had Tony Morris speaking. Tony is an author of some terrific books on sales, including ‘Coffee is for Closers’. He’s full of useful tips and is an engaging speaker. He’s also an extremely sneaky man!
I say this because, unbeknown to my ABLE members and myself, he ‘mystery shopped’ all of our businesses before the meeting. That’s right. He went to the trouble of getting the main telephone number for the business of every member of ABLE, and he called them, noting how he was treated, and how well whoever answered the phone addressed his enquiry. When Tony revealed what he’d done, there were a few gulps and sheepish looks around the room, including me!
I’m glad Tony did it though. He gave us a practical example of how potential clients make a judgement about your company from that very first interaction.
Do it right
Who answers the main phone number for your business? Do you have a receptionist? Maybe you use a call-answering service? Maybe you do it yourself? Either way, you need to be certain that whoever answers that call is creating the right first impression.
It’s not just taking a message and passing it on, although that helps. It’s knowing what your company does and what exactly they offer. It’s knowing exactly the right person to put the caller through to, to help them with their enquiry. It’s making the caller feel valued. Really, whoever answers that phone should be able to give an elevator pitch for the company, whether they’re the receptionist or the CEO.
Set the tone
Why not give it a try? Mystery shop your company, or get a friend to do it for you. Come up with some dummy questions and see how your staff deal with them. Make a note of how enthusiastic they sound, and whether they go the extra mile to help you.
Once you’ve done this, work out where there’s room for improvement. Be honest with yourself, even if you’ve uncovered some uncomfortable truths. You might consider offering your frontline staff some training, or coming up with a script that they can use when they answer the phone. Don’t go too far though, you want them to still sound human, not like robots.
After implementing these changes, mystery shop your company on a regular basis, to check the changes have been implemented and everyone is on the same page. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Make sure your impression is the best it can be.
Over to you now. How do you make sure your business creates the right impression from a client’s first interaction?
Peter Lynagh runs peer group learning groups in both London and Kingston for business leaders and entrepreneurs who are willing and ABLE to invest in themselves and grow their business. Membership is by invitation only and if you are interested in our … wait for it, complimentary session with Peter please get in touch on 01375 893412 or email him at [email protected].