CUSTOMER SERVICE

3 Simple Ways to Nail a First Impression

Wowing customers doesn't have to be expensive. But it takes diligence and attention to detail.
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At the end of a long day I remembered I was scheduled for a critical client meeting the next morning. I looked down at my scraggly, chipped nails. Oh no. This will not do.

Three to five seconds. That’s all it takes to make or break a first impression. You may remember how to make a positive impact on a personal level, but what about at your place of business?

There wasn’t time to get a manicure from my favorite nail salon across town, so I pulled into another salon near my house. I ran in and flopped into a vacant chair. And then I looked around. The salon was disgusting. Plastic palm trees and faded flower arrangements were covered in dust. Stacks of old magazines spilled onto the floors. Electrical wires dangled, mail was piled high, linoleum floors were grimey. I got a decent shellac French manicure, but for sure, I was not coming back. I thought: This is a business designed purely for the purpose of helping people look their best. They sterilize their tools of the trade (I hope), so why wouldn’t they invest in keeping the salon looking spiffy? Where was the design and planning?

The look and feel of your business speaks volumes. Real estate professionals invest in "curb appeal" because it brings in buyers. You've no doubt seen neglected establishments. Run-down restaurants. Dumpy dentist offices. Lifeless lobbies. There are countless television shows now dedicated to the renovation of these establishments. Here are three things every business should check before the first customer walks in the door:

1. Keep customer touchpoints spotless.

A clean office or store says, "We care about quality." Eliminate any sign of neglect or laziness. Wash windows. Sweep floors. Vacuum carpet. Keep the restroom tidy and fresh, for goodness sake! Even if your office doesn’t attract retail foot traffic, you’re sending a message to employees and vendors. Don’t let dust bunnies stand between you and more revenue.

2. Add color to customer surroundings. 

Adding a pop of color to your business location can create a positive and welcoming look and feel. Home sellers plant flowers. Creative agencies flaunt bold furniture. Tech startups paint bright walls. Hospitals use soothing pastels. Use colors and design to make a statement about your brand and attract the right customers without saying a word. 

3. Minimize furniture and other accessories--declutter.

It doesn't matter what type of business you own. The owner of our favorite Szechuan restaurant kept it clean but used a table in the dining room as her "office." It got worse and worse, and I wasn’t surprised when her clientele dwindled and she eventually closed. Apparel stores with merchandise all over the floor. Offices with paperwork piled high. Cardboard boxes, outdated magazines, knick-knacks, office supplies, and other stuff that sits in plain view of customers. It’s not only distracting, it’s disrespectful to patrons.

Three to five seconds to make an impression that can last a lifetime. There are far too many options for customers and their loyalty is fleeting. Keep customers focused on what you’re selling, and not what you're stockpiling. 

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: May 19, 2014

RENE SHIMADA SIEGEL | Columnist | Founder, High Tech Connect

Rene Shimada Siegel is founder and president of High Tech Connect, a unique consulting partner for expert marketing and communications. After a successful career in Silicon Valley, she founded her company 15 years ago while juggling three kids under the age of five.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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