Customer Service

1. Making a Great First Impression
2. Calming Down Irate Customers
3. Telephone Talk
4. Saying No


People Smarts

Customer Service: Part I

How to Create a Great First Impression

Have you ever heard of the five second rule? You may not know it, but you experience it all the time. Studies show that on average we draw opinions about others within the first five seconds of meeting them. So you barely have time to greet a customer before they form an opinion.

You might chalk up the five second rule to a judgmental, shallow habit, but in truth we just don't have time to get to know everyone we meet. We make quick decisions about how to spend our time, money and breath. In that case, five seconds makes a big difference.

When it comes to getting and keeping customers remember that your competitors are probably well aware of the five second rule too, so you need the edge in order to make sure that you are memorable.

Here are three tips to remember about your first impression:

  1. Be unforgettable. There's a restaurant in the Florida Keys that asks customers a crazy question when they order their food. "Whose your favorite actor?" or "If you could meet anyone, who would it be?" Customers are surprised at first, but they answer. When they're food is ready, they're called by their responses. So instead of order number 53, it's "Carry Grant" or "Mahatma Gandhi." It makes ordering, standing in line, and eating a lot more fun, and everyone remembers the restaurant where they get to be famous.

Being unforgettable doesn't have to cost a lot of money and it doesn't even have to be about your product. It may be an article of clothing employees wear, something they say when customers walk through the door, or a small token of appreciation each customer gets for coming in.

  1. Have a personal trademark. Your company's trademark is one thing; but you need your own personal touch when working with customers. A successful car salesman in New Jersey sends personalized cards to customers for every silly holiday imaginable. The cards are hand made and copied, so they have a personal feeling. Everyone knows him and his customers come back because he is memorable and makes a small effort to be different.

A personal trademark can be anything from a sincere smile to a special saying or greeting that your customers remember. In a market saturated with everything we could want, it's that small percentage of difference that really matters.

Master non-verbal communication. The irony of the five second rule is that you may not even open your mouth within the first five seconds of seeing a customer. They may simply observe you as they walk in and form their opinion. In that case, you need to get your body language right. First, make sure that your clothes match the organization's culture. If you work for a kayak company, wear the sports clothes they sell. If you work in an advertising agency, a suit or business attire is appropriate. Second, your posture should exude confidence and energy. Do that by pretending there are two imaginary threads pulling your shoulders up and slightly back. Make sure you're not hunching. Third, watch that face. Your expression will tell all. The more you smile, the better you feel, so why not do it every time you see a new customer?  It will make them and you feel good.

Whether we like it or not, first impressions matter more than most of us realize. Take advantage of those five seconds to be memorable in the minds of your customer, and have fun doing it.