Have you ever walked into a business and not been acknowledged? It does not feel great. All the more reason to be sure you always acknowledge a customer who has entered your business within 2-3 seconds. Even when you are assisting someone else, you can excuse yourself to make eye contact and say, “be with you shortly,” or you can make eye contact and just give a wave with your hand to acknowledge them.
Customers can see that you are assisting another customer already but they want to know that you are aware they are waiting for you to assist them. Customers relax when they are acknowledged quickly – stress is relieved, and they can wait for you to complete the interaction you are engaged in. The calm feeling will hold for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, then they will begin to get nervous again.
Manage their anxiety continually while they wait to be taken care of – comfort them by making eye contact again, saying “be with you as quick as I can” again, and another gesture that you know they are still waiting. Wow — now they feel important and know they matter to you.
Simple and easy right? Then what makes it so difficult to do?
Much of the customer feedback says that “indifference” from the associate assisting them was what they disliked the most about the visit to the shop. The not caring – the “oh well” attitude and behavior turned the customer off to returning to the business again. So, let’s work on providing an impactful first impression. Begin with the end in mind: a loyal customer in the making.
Non-ATI members: Learn how to perfect a great first impression. It will help you build loyalty with your customers — and referrals! Start with ATI’s Impactful First Impressions Checklist.
First impressions are vital to your business’s success. The first impression begins long before they make contact with you personally inside your business. Think about your website, your reviews, and how you look on the outside – building, parking lot, and lawn – the complete street view, and the staff. Everything matters!
Once a customer enters your business, they are forming first impressions on the appearance and cleanliness of the lobby area, bathrooms, your attitude, your attire, and the shop and staff appearance as well.
Let us focus today on what the associate can do once the customer becomes engaged with the associate inside the business. Here are some key points to focus on to aid you in creating an impactful first impression.
The priority: smile every time!
- Focus on them and not you: their needs are the most important. The customer is the center of attention – active listening – allow them to share more than you do.
- Maintain eye contact: remain steady, never appear to look beyond the customer or over their shoulder. Pick an eye and maintain a steady gaze on that one eye. You may move to the other eye and at times you may move to the mouth – think of it as a focused triangle – left eye, right eye, mouth. You move between the three.
- Get their name and use their name: aim for a minimum of 3 times during the dialogue. This is vital for you to start the rapport building process. Their name is the greatest word a person hears.
- Be careful with humor: a small share about something you did that was funny may be an icebreaker. Normally you will want to stay away from joking and poking fun. You may respond to the customer’s humor carefully.
- Park the ego: give up the need to be right. Wait for credible evidence to confront a customer’s beliefs or barriers to the information you need to share.
- Appearance counts: dress for success every day. Be aware of your breath, food in your teeth, and on your clothes. Automotive business can be difficult to keep totally clean – be mindful of what you look like when you engage your customers and do your best to present the best you possible.
- Be selective with your words: choose to be positive. Remove the negative language, remove the slang, customers will pass judgment on your smarts, your education, and even your ability to do your job by the words you select to communicate with them.
You did it! You built a rapport and are off and running to building a relationship with a customer. Now work to build loyalty and referrals.
Non-ATI Members: Check out our Impactful First Impressions Checklist for coaching each other on creating impactful first impressions. Download and share the contents with your staff, and encourage everyone to be good observers and share feedback with each other. Then work on your action plans to develop more professional skills at creating impactful first impressions.