by Nancy Owen, PHR
How important is a first impression to your organization? You know the famous saying, “you only get one chance to make a first impression”.
What impressions are your employees giving your customers and clients?
The first thing you need to think about is who are the first impressionists within your company? Is it the front desk? The telephone rep? Maybe a salesperson? Whoever it is, be sure they understand the importance of first impressions, of customer service, and of how the two are related. The first experience your potential customers have with your organization must be positive. If that first impression is a bad one, that potential client or customer will not want your customer service and may just take their business somewhere else.
I have often heard people say that society has grown accustomed to poor customer service. We seem to expect less, sometimes with the understanding that people have bad days and no one is perfect and that the lack of customer service is okay. Is it really though?
Statistics show that up to 78 percent of consumers have left a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of poor customer service. A typical business hears from roughly four percent of the customers or clients that are dissatisfied. What about the other 96 percent? They just leave and never let anyone know.
It has been known to take up to 10 good experiences to make up for one negative experience. So how important is customer service to your business?
Companies spend an awful lot of time and money trying to keep their customers. They work hard to cultivate the relationships and they constantly strive to maintain a high standard of service excellence for those customers. But any service-oriented organization would agree that growing their customer base is essential. So, wouldn’t you think that a lot of resources should go into training employees how to make good impressions? Especially first impressions.
With just a one-second glance, customers, and potential customers, create opinions and assumptions about your company. Do they see a smile or do they hear the smile in a voice? Remember they are forming an immediate opinion about their comfort level with your employees. Usually people will base their opinions on your appearance, body language and manners.
As you can imagine, that first impression is so important that it sets the tone for the relationship to come … or not. It is important to know how to create a good first impression and then go teach it to your employees who will be touching your customers and clients. Consider training these key elements to creating a positive first impression:
SMILE: It has been proven that a smile is the single most valuable thing in creating a first impression. When you smile it shows your confidence and genuine concern for the person with whom you are interacting.
Language matters: Make sure your words set a positive tone. Don’t use words like “can’t” and “unfortunately”. Start your conversations with words like “What can I do for you?” or “How can I assist you?”
Body language matters, too: Face the customer, making good eye contact. Don’t look at your cell phone or other areas of the room. Looking customers in the eye tells them that you are interested in what they have to say.
Under promise and over deliver: Don’t ever promise something you cannot deliver. Employees should always be looking for a way to exceed the customer’s expectation. That kind of service will make you stand out from the rest. When you handle an issue, get it resolved the first time! It will save your organization money and make your customers come back time and time again.
Be empathetic: You should be treating your customers the way you would want to be treated yourself. Empathy is different than sympathy. A customer wants to know that you understand how they feel and what they are going through. They do not want your sympathy. Rather, they want to know that you have been through the same experience and you know how to handle it.
Be patience and attentive: As the saying goes, “good service is always better then fast service”. Be patient with your customer and give them time to talk. Put your listening skills to work. The ability to listen is crucial to successful customer service. Your employees must have the patience to stay focused in all kinds of situations. They must take the time to figure out what the customer needs or wants.
Communicate clearly: Make sure your communications translate well to your customers. Do not use slang words. Listen more than you talk. The customer is not there to hear about your problems or your life story. When it comes to communication, keep it simple and clear.
Know your stuff: Make sure you understand your company’s product line and customer policies. There is nothing worse than a customer being given incorrect information or being moved from representative to representative.
Remember, it all starts in the beginning. Good first impressions created by great customer service leads to repeat business, increased customer recommendations and ever-improving revenues. What’s not to like about that!!
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