You never have a second chance to make a first impression. Whoever came up with that cliche really said a mouthful. But there is wisdom in that expression for those of us with businesses as well. And a lesson we can learn from our dogs.
As many of you know I sold my resort about a year ago. Naturally, part of the sale process was an escrow transaction which might normally be not so memorable but, a year later, I still am impressed by the greetings I got from a local escrow company. Whenever anyone walked into this business it was as if you were visiting old friends and, as you walked through, the entire staff would greet you warmly.
There was a feeling of sincere appreciation and, frankly, I want to go through another real estate transaction just because of the warm feeling I got every time I went to this escrow company.
What message is your business sending to your customers on their first impression? Are your team clearly appreciative of the people who make their jobs possible, or do your customers walk in and get ignored because the staff are conversing with one another or, even worse, staring at their phones?
Consider the second-largest retailer in the world (Amazon is bigger now) - Walmart. I’m no fan of their business practices which may overshadow so many of the things they do but one of the hallmarks of that company is that each store has a greeter. Why?
The retailer’s founder, Sam Walton, came up with the concept. Personal touches such as interactions from greeters “[provide] competitors with a customer service challenge to be reckoned with,” wrote author Michael Bergdahl in his 2004 book, What I Learned From Sam Walton: How to Compete and Thrive in a Wal-Mart World. They have also found that having the greeters reduces theft at the stores.
Sam Walton also knew that, if you feel an emotional connection to a business thanks to a warm greeting, you are more likely to feel comfortable spending your money there and less likely to steal from them as well. It’s more difficult to steal from friends and easier to buy from them as well.
But you don’t need a retiree at the front door of your business to compete - every team member should be enrolled in making the guest feel welcome. When you consider that it’s been over a year and I’m still impressed by the greeting I got from the ladies at the escrow company, this should be a mantra for every business. Each employee should take it upon themselves to acknowledge the people who make their jobs possible.
But, often times, we get just the opposite. We get ignored by team members who are conversing with one another, staring at their phones (which should be locked away when they clock in), looking at a computer screen or doing anything but caring about the person who makes their job possible.
Such was the case at a costume shop I visited. My wife loves to dress up. A lot. Renaissance Faires, car shows, steam punk events, any opportunity she has she will open one of her steamer trunks and out come the outfits.
So when we heard about this outstanding costume shop we had to go. Our “greeting” was a young lady on her cell phone behind the counter. As we wandered up and down the aisles she was completely engrossed in that phone. Eventually it became a challenge for my mischievous side.
By the time we left, without making a purchase, I had managed to outfit several of the mannequins with a variety of suggestive items, all without distracting this young lady despite my best efforts. You see I had no emotional investment in that costume shop.
On a far more basic level, for dog owners, think about the enthusiastic greeting you get coming home every time by your dog. If your dog gets it, why don’t the employees at so many businesses?
While it has become less common, common courtesy can make a big difference between your customers being thrilled to do business with you and going elsewhere. Maybe we should all be treated like a dog. They get it. Woof.