Managing Products and Services

How to make a powerful first impression

A customer starts making decisions about your business within seconds of a walk-in, phone call, or online visit. Here’s how to make sure their first impression is a positive and memorable one. 

Published: July 21, 2014
Updated: February 11, 2017

As a business owner, you want to create a great customer experience so that people keep coming back. And that experience starts right when the customer encounters your business for the first time, whether they walk through the door, call your sales department, or click through your website.

Here are some tips for making a great first impression:

Identify what kind of impression you want to make.

Do you want to convey an image of good service, authority, professionalism, trust, confidence, or competence? You have the ability to control the impression you leave with your customers, so determine what message is most important for your business. For instance, if you want your restaurant to be known for being clean and orderly, make sure your dining room is always spotless. Or if you want your marketing firm to be known for having a robust online following, make sure your social profiles are always active. Customers will get the impression that you care about your business from the moment they first experience it.

Be mindful of your non-verbal communication cues.

Advise employees to welcome customers or clients by walking toward them in acknowledgment of their presence, rather than just calling out to them. In addition, standing tall, pulling back your shoulders, and straightening your head are all visual signals of confidence and competence. Customers prefer to deal with those who convey authority and expertise.

Also, it sounds simple, but you'd be surprised by how many people look away during a conversation. Encourage your staff to maintain eye contact with customers because this tells them that you're paying attention. This will also help your team focus more attentively on customers and what they're saying.

For over-the-phone interactions, keep in mind that your tone of voice accounts for 70% of how you're perceived. So it's not just the words you use, but how you say them that matters.

Express gratitude and personalize your communication.

Saying "thank you for calling" or "thanks so much for coming in today" are good ways to communicate how much you appreciate your customers' business. If you have a website, consider including a message on the homepage that thanks customers for visiting. If customers feel valued, they're more likely to come back again.

Also, whenever possible, use a client or customer's name to get their attention effectively, whether it's in person or over the phone. In turn, to give your attention fully, try to spend at least as much time listening as talking. This lets the other party know that you're interested in what he or she has to say.

Implement a dress code or uniform.

Dressing properly demonstrates a level of respect for your business and your clients and helps avoid detracting from the business at hand. Clothing consistency is one of the easiest ways to convey this kind of professionalism. A professional dress code or uniform will not only create a polished-looking environment, but it also will communicate to customers whom they should go to for help.

Your customer is making numerous computations in the first few seconds of encountering your business. Is your organization one to approach or avoid? Do you have status and authority? Are you trustworthy, competent, and confident? Will you waste their time? Take some time to coach your staff on these best practices. By putting effort into creating a lasting and positive first impression, you can influence the evaluations people make about you and your business.