First Impressions Last Forever

Bruce Heinrich
Posted on August 1, 2011

Why is it that an owner or manager can be so nice, polite and well-groomed when meeting a customer, but then let his guard down in front of employees? Don’t you know that those same employees are ultimately going to model your words and actions to your customers?

You have only have one chance to make a first impression. A good first impression sets the tone and expectation for the rest of that relationship.

Can you remember meeting someone for the first time and thinking, “I’ll probably never do business with them?” We all have. So let’s put the odds in our favor and intend to make a positive impression first.

The only way to overcome a poor first impression is to act, perform and appear in a consistent and strong manner over time. In most cases, we won’t even get the chance.

Your employees, especially new hires, are hyper-sensitive to your every word, act and manner. They will make a decision somewhere in the first minutes, hours or days whether or not they like or respect you, your management style, your business, your customers and how long they anticipate working for you.

Are you experiencing high turn-over? Do you manage a disgruntled or undisciplined group of chauffeurs or CSRs? What if you put the odds in your favor from the outset? I learned at the Ritz-Carlton that the single most important element to having a well-trained, loyal and happy workforce is to have a systematic professional process for hiring, orientation, and training. Simply enough, it all starts with their first impression(s) of you, your office, staff, and even your shoes.

At our storefront office, our team is trained to greet every visitor warmly and offer a chilled bottle of water before even finding out who they are or what they want. Why? Well, how expensive or difficult is it to invest 15 cents and a smile in someone who may become an employee, new client or vendor? Whoever they turn out to be, they will always remember the inviting atmosphere at our company.

People still mention how that impressed them and encouraged them to work for our company. That’s what you call excellent human ROI.

After that first interaction, you will both know if a good fit is mutual. Not only is that one element of our hiring system, it is part of our DNA. Employees simply model my behavior. Everyone can learn and act out quality service principals and techniques, even if they have to learn to have “a heart for service.” It just takes practice and a good model.

SIDEBAR: How do you put the odds in your favor?

Greet everyone with warmth in your voice and a smile, whether in person or on the phone.

  • Introduce yourself first.
  • Repeat their name and use it at least twice more.
  • Give them a warm goodbye.
  • Be groomed. Look in the mirror.
  • Act and dress appropriately. If you are the GM, CEO or President, rise to the role.
  • Keep your desk and office neat, clean and organized; your team will follow and it sets the expectation for new hires.

If it feels uncomfortable for you; don’t worry. Just fake it until you make it a natural part of you.

Bruce Heinrich is the founder and CEO of LEADER Worldwide Chauffeur Services in Kansas City, Mo., and a 2009 LCT Operator of the Year. He discovered his passion for great service working at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Los Angeles. He and his wife live in Kansas City. Readers can reach Bruce at [email protected]

Related Topics: Bruce Heinrich, customer service, human resources, New Operator, staff training

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