5 ways to make a first impression when you welcome your customers

What is the first impression customers get when they arrive at your business?

Do your visitors and customers feel as if they have just walked into a friendly, happy and helpful place? Do they feel that people are at the ready to help them? Do they find a clean and organized entrance into your business, retail store or office greeting area?

Few businesses really stop and think about the first impression an entry into a business makes for the customer. Signals, whether conscious or subconscious, immediately tell the customer about your business and how welcome they feel.

If a customer encounters a bedraggled space where the staff could give two hoots whether the customer stays or goes, then in all likelihood they will leave without a purchase, with a bad impression or worse; both.  What is worse is the customer will no doubt tell others about their experience.

If doesn’t take much time or many resources to make a good first impression.  If your family has ever been relaxing on a Sunday morning, only to get a call that someone is expectantly stopping by, then you already know how fast you can move to make a good impression.

Here are five ways to make a solid first impression when you welcome your customers and visitors to your business:

  1. It begins where the customer parks – I do not care whether you own your real estate or not, it is your job to be sure your customers are greeted with a neat and tidy place to park. When I arrived in a small Ohio city to start a new job, I parked in the downtown until I was assigned a space. As I got out of my car, I was greeted by a weed almost as tall as I was. That weed was grouped with smaller weeds that surrounded a tree. Looking down the street I could see the same pattern every ten feet.  In each case the shop owner could have cared and attended to the patch of dirt in front of their business. Instead, it was the city’s problem. What message did that send to customers and clients?  It was no wonder people complained the downtown was dead.
  2. It continues with a welcome and a smile – Recently I had a meeting with Gemline in Lawrence, MA to discuss leadership training. As I walked into the building I saw a display board with “Welcome Al Getler” in plastic, white letters. The person behind the desk smiled and greeted me with great anticipation that I had arrived. I was offered water and provided a name tag that served as much as an opportunity to be greeted by employees of Gemline as it was a security measure.  The cost?  Two hundred dollars for the display board (divided by the times used is less than 5 cents), 50 cents for the water and 50 cents for the name tag.  Low cost, but the value was priceless. And I was selling, not buying. You can get the cost down to less than a penny if you hire that right person that just does the welcome and smile part (see Walmart).
  3. It flourishes in an attractive environment – Last year I wrote about my former doctor’s office waiting room. The furniture was broken and ripped, the air was stuffy and the TV in the corner barely worked. Notice I wrote “former” doctor. If his own bedside manners didn’t match the décor of his waiting room, maybe I would have hung in there. Instead I moved to a new practice.  Gemline had a bright, lively environment featuring their products.
  4. It continues with the small things – When I had to have root canal, I went to a dentist’s office where the staff wore embroidered clothing, the furniture was trendy (and new) and the staff offered me bottled water while I waited. I was so impressed!  I had never experienced this at a dentist’s office. Gosh, I will have all of my root canals there and you should, too (God forbid, so brush your teeth). Then there is the auto garage waiting area in a rough nearby city complete with snacks, water and a flat screen TV tuned to CNN. Awesome.
  5. It is capped with a quick response and a helpful, friendly staff – No matter how nice the greeting area is for the customer and how friendly the greeter is upon arrival, if the customer has to celebrate a birthday waiting for help then it is all for not. Have your team work hard on response time.  If it is a retail environment, you can simply offer a few tips about the store and back off. If it is a medical office, tell the patient exactly how long the process will take then provide interesting videos or material on healthcare as they wait.  I can go on, but the point is figure out how you would like to be treated then do it for your customers; on steroids.

Test Your Welcome

Take time now to get into your car, drive into your place of business, and walk through the door. Do it objectively. Pretend it is your first visit. Better yet, strap a Pro Cam to your chest and replay the video for your team with a critical eye.

They say you only get one first impression. What impression is your business giving?

Al Getler is a writer, speaker and consultant in the areas of media, digital media, leadership and customer service. He is also a comedian and a ventriloquist. Summed up, it means you will laugh and learn with him at your company, your convention or your event.

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