The adage “you don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression” is true and is even more applicable when it comes to customer service and customer experience.
Research has shown that based on first impressions, people form their opinion and perception of your business and brand in a matter of seconds; and the perception created in that very short space of time greatly influences how they will engage with you and whether they will do business with you or not.
According to cbusiness resilience and customer experience expert and speaker, Femi Adebanji, when it comes to service excellence, first impressions matter. “For instance, says Femi, in a retail environment, two factors influence the first impression that the retailer projects to its customers. The first factor that immediately influences customer perception when they walk into the store is the environment and setting – the cleanliness of the store, whether the stock is neatly arranged, the design and layout of the store, lighting etc. The second factor that influences first impressions (and this applies to every business) is the “interaction-factor” – whether the people representing the business are professional, knowledgeable, presentable, courteous, the quality of their communication skills and the type of body language they project when they are dealing with clients.
Femi who is also Managing Partner and lead CX Strategist at Baines and Partners, a customer service advisory and training consultancy, believes that portraying a great first impression is absolutely important for customer-facing staff. However, this means that organisations must invest in developing the customer service soft skills of their employees as well as ensure that employees are trained on how to effectively communicate with customers, both verbally and non-verbally.
“And when it comes to service excellence, how we communicate to customers is key, says Femi, especially given the fact that over 60% of the emotional impact we make when communicating is non-verbal and driven by our body language cues. Verbally, we might be saying all the right things to the customer, but our body language could be telling a very different story, putting the customer off and creating a poor customer experience!”. He further goes on to highlight that “When it comes to customer service, very often, its not what we say but how we say it that matters”.
Customers will read far more into the body language and non-verbal cues than what the employee says. Hence, when serving clients, staff can make a great first impression by displaying a friendly and upbeat attitude, without being overbearing and pushy. Again, using the retail environment example, customers want sales people that are close enough to assist but not so close that the customer feels hovered over and becomes irritated.
In projecting a positive first impression, employees should also be careful not to come across as “faking it”. “Today’s customer is quite savvy, and they can quickly tell if your attitude is genuine or if you are putting up an act; says Femi Adebanji, and if they don’t trust you, they won’t trust what you say; and if they don't trust what you say, chances are that its very unlikely that they will do business with you.