Magazine article Industrial Management

Director of First Impressions

Magazine article Industrial Management

Director of First Impressions

Article excerpt

An editorial appearing in the Providence Journal Dec. 30, 2002, reads as follows:

"There is, in New Bedford, a classy woman we know who works as a receptionist. Affixed in her work space, where only she can read it, is this sign: "Director of First Impressions." She understands that those who telephone or walk into this place of business first encounter her. Their first impressions of the business flow directly from how she first impresses them."

I wonder how many companies realize how important first impressions are and the enormous impact they have on the business. Many people decide to go elsewhere based solely on their first encounter with a company representative, whether that's the receptionist, a telephone operator, a sales representative, or an automated answering system.

These days, we are usually met with a recorded message asking us to press a series of buttons to get to a live person. When someone does come on the line, we already have been formulating our first impression. How do you overcome the frustration of a caller who has spent several minutes attempting to navigate a difficult system? You will lose potential customers who give up in frustration at not being able to get to the right person.

A few years ago, I read about an entrepreneur who decided not to use an automated answering system. He wanted the human touch and wouldn't succumb to a high-tech solution even though it would be easier. He insisted that the people who work for him answer the telephone themselves and not rely on voice mail to take messages. I thought this was both unusual and enlightened.

Business leaders must realize that the company can be negatively affected by poor first impressions and they need to ensure that callers are greeted appropriately, with respect and concern for their inquiries.

If you agree with the editorial in the Providence Journal, then you may want to consider training your staff to realize that each and every one of them that interfaces with the public is a director of first impressions. In this role, they are vitally important because a first impression can determine whether or not business will be transacted. If receptionists and telephone operators don't believe this, then managers are not doing a very good job. First impressions are lasting ones and usually indicate how the company is run. If people are treated courteously from the start, they will expect such treatment will continue right through the organization. And most times they are correct.

While you may think your product is the only differentiating source of your profitability, you are dead wrong. …

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