Thursday, September 19, 2013

Create a positive first impression for your business

You're new to town and your car needs fixing. Scanning the local phone book, you come across an auto repair shop that's a few blocks away. Pulling into the parking lot, you start to notice things: the signage above the door, the clothing of the employees, the shrubbery skirting the building. You step into the waiting area and continue to observe. You check out the condition of the carpet, the smells and sounds emanating from the garage, the magazines scattered on the coffee table. As you approach the service counter, you consider the condition of the counter top, the receptionist's tone of voice, and the calendar on the wall.

All of this happens within minutes of your arrival and before any service is rendered. If what greets your senses is generally positive, you will likely give this company return business — assuming their services are reasonably priced and their staff is competent. On the other hand, if your first impression is negative — even if the service is performed in a satisfactory manner — you're less likely to darken their doors again. First impressions matter.

So how do you create a positive first impression for your business? Start with "curb appeal." As any realtor will tell you, a fresh coat of paint can work wonders. Trimmed hedges, clean windows, and signage that says, "We care and we're open for business" — all these physical aspects of your facility will either invite customers or drive them away. Pleasant music, coffee and popcorn, freshly baked cookies — such relatively inexpensive accoutrements can create a positive impression as well.

Even if your facility is pristine, your employees make a big difference to that first impression. Train them to make eye contact with every customer, to communicate clearly, and to focus on individual needs. If possible, uniforms should be clean and in good repair. Staff should be courteous, even when customers become irate or unreasonable. Employees should learn to keep their cool and explain facts in an even-handed manner. If you walk through the door and observe a red-faced employee in a heated verbal exchange with a customer, will you return to that business?

People are observing all the time, and they're reporting those observations to friends and associates. Make sure your business leaves a positive first — and lasting — impression.

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