You only have one chance for a great first impression

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IMG_5028Making a really poor first impression with your customer is almost a guarantee that you can wave goodbye to business in the future, and sadly there are days when the best laid plans of employees and their well rehearsed skills go awry. The question is can a business deal with it so they don’t lose a customer, and how does a business make amends? Here is how one company handled their blunder.

Last week my Mercedes had been making a strange noise – the kind of noise one just can’t turn the radio up louder to ignore; I thought it might be serious. I arrived at the dealership in North Palm Beach and was promptly greeted and led into a waiting area. I waited and waited – lots of employees going back and forth and in and out, but no one stopped to speak with me. When I saw the original “meet and greet” employee I told him no one had helped me yet, and I was becoming impatient. He told me that everyone was very busy and to continue to wait.

And now in the century of the I phone and with no patience for poor customer service, I called another Mercedes dealership and asked if I could bring my car in for a diagnosis of its problem. The receptionist Stacy asked me where I lived and told me I could bring my car to them, but the dealership in my area was much closer. I told her that was where I was calling from, and how I had been told to wait in a wide-open lobby and no one had yet to even wave to me. I told her my name, and she promised to get back to me in a few minutes.

And that is exactly what Stacy did. Not only did she remember my name, she called me right back and said a representative would be with me shortly. After that, the service was exemplary – and not only was my car repaired, I was given a Mercedes loaner, and from that moment on my customer service needs were handled as if my father owned the company.

Customers remember good service and good products, but it’s that first point of contact where someone is welcoming and friendly and promptly attends to their clients that define a reputation and future business. That first impression doesn’t just happen by luck or chance, so preparing all the participants with their own customized training skills may require more than letting one of the other employees show someone “around.” In order for employees to be on the top of their job, managers need to provide training courses with “how to” manage different situations, read body language, step out of their “box” to take extra steps to help someone, and learn how to effectively manage unhappy people and difficult situations.

The next day when I returned the loaner car and was ready to pick up my own car, the welcoming staff could not have been more helpful, friendly and engaging. I forgive you Mercedes-Benz – you handled the problem well.

photo credit: CLF

1 COMMENT

  1. First impressions can indeed be last impressions – you won’t likely return to dealership A based on the poor greeting.

    Given your comment about the next day, I can’t help but think that dealership B has an overall customer experience strategy. When defining your company’s customer experience, the business needs to consider all the touchpoints. In this case, meet & greet ==> follow-up ==> service handoff ==> follow-up (and if they’re smart, another follow-up in a day or two to make sure everything’s still OK).

    To your point, though, that first impression doesn’t leave much room for recovery.

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