First Impressions Count!
You don’t always get a second chance
By Bill de Decker
There’s a radio advertisement playing in my area that raises an interesting thought. The ad features a young guy who says something like, "I have been raised in an age where nobody knows what service is. Bigger, yes. Cheaper, maybe. And warehouses with shelves to the ceiling. But nobody who understands what I need—" He then goes on to extol the virtues of a local hardware store chain where they focus on understanding their customers’ needs and provide individual service. It’s a good ad for a hardware store that is successfully fighting the mega-store onslaught — and doing it the only way that works well — with superior service.
Which raises a question: What is this thing called service? And, what distinguishes good service from bad service? Strange as it may sound, it is more than just delivering a good job on time and on budget. Much more. A really important part is finding out what your customers and prospects are looking for and then figuring out a way to give it to them. When you approach it from this angle, one of the things you’ll find is the importance of the first impressions that your organization and you make on the prospect or customer. And, this is one area where some otherwise great organizations fall flat.
A major aerospace company that I visit on a regular basis where the first six parking spots in front of the main entrance are marked "Reserved." No, they are not reserved for visitors; they are reserved for senior management of that company. What kind of message does this send to your prospects and customers? It fairly shouts that the people that are really important at this company are the CEO, VPs, etc. Much better to move these parking spots to the back of the building (like they do at restaurants) and let the folks that really count, your customers, use these spots. Remember, your visitors, whether vendors, prospects, customers or job applicants are some of the most important people you will see at work. They bring you business, information, supplies and new skills.
Answering the telephone
More than one major organization that I deal with uses a computerized telephone system to answer their main number. You know, the one where a computerized voice answers and tells you "If you know your party’s extension, you can dial it now." That’s fine if you know the extension. But what if you don’t? Some will then send you to an operator who will help you. Other systems ask you to punch in the first three letters of the person’s name. What if you don’t know the exact spelling and you are told that person doesn’t work there? Or, what if you just want to talk to "someone in marketing"? It’s true, these systems do save money by eliminating the need for a receptionist. It is also true that I know of no person who enjoys dealing with these computerized versions of purgatory. So the question is: How much business are you losing because prospects give up and call your competitor who uses a real, live receptionist that is geared to help get the caller connected with the folks that can help them?
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