A Positive First Impression

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Everybody talks about customer service. Training shouldn't be just for training's sake but to help the retailer's bottom line

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A Positive First Impression ...By: Sarah Cumberland

Retailing is dynamic, demanding and is a constant challenge. To thrive in this industry, your business needs to be tuned in to your customer needs and expectations. Nobody can have too much knowledge on the subject, says Dick Bates, retailer relations manager at Westfield.

"Everybody talks about customer service. Training shouldn't be just for training's sake but to help the retailer's bottom line". We provide our retailers with a program that provides them with the actual skills they need to put into practice.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA), in partnership with Westfield, has designed a series of workshops to help retailers maximise sales, improve their profit margins and create the right buying environment to keep customers coming back. According to Bates, Westfield doesn't conduct the training itself because "you don't ask your landlord to babysit your kids". An extract from the ARA's program:Opening Techniques - You only have one chance to make a positive first impression with the customers in your store. Your customer should see you as: "helpful", "warm and friendly", sincere, interested, attentive, responsive to their needs, confident and positive. But the impression your customers have of your business can be formed even before you have a chance to impress them with your product knowledge and service skills. Some research shows that customers will form their first impression of your business within the first 3 to 4 seconds of coming into contact with your store....this can occur even while the customer is outside your business.

Your opening technique will also impact your customer's impression of the business, and their willingness to buy. The Opening should include two distinct steps:*Acknowledge; and*Approach.

Acknowledgment

The acknowledgement of the customer serves no other purpose than to let the customer know that you have seen them and know that they are in the store.

methods include:

*Eye contact;*A wave; and/or*Some type of welcoming comment.

The acknowledgement is like an invisible string connecting you to the customer, and the customer - through their actions - will indicate how you should approach them and the service they are seeking. The acknowledgement makes the approach a much more comfortable experience for you and the customer.

Approach

Your approach can take on one of three forms, depending on the actions of your customer:

1. Service;2. Merchandise; or3. Greeting.

1. Service

The service approach is ideal for the customer who walks straight up to the counter and/or you. They know what they want, may need to ask a question or may pick up an item and move straight to the counter area. This customer should be welcomed and served as quickly as possible.

2. Merchandise

A customer is looking at a particular item of stock. They may be reading the label, looking at the box or touching the product. Select a product feature (characteristic) and start a conversation with the customer, about that feature.

3. Greeting

Your customer may be walking through the store, puzzled or looking a little hassled. Approach and start a conversation. Don't use the old retailer's favourite "Can I help YOU?" Like most of us, you will get the "No thanks! I'm just looking." response. Start the conversation about something the customer is wearing, a community or social event that may be occurring in your local area, the number of people about or, if appropriate, even the weather.

Whether you use the Service, Merchandise or Greeting approach technique the key is to get your customer talking, find out what they need and want and provide them with a solution to those needs.

The Westfield Retail Sales Skills Workshops will include seven steps in the sales process including: 1. Opening Techniques and;2. Gathering information from your customer;3. Selling Merchandise Benefits to your customers;4. Handling Customers Concerns, in making a commitment to the selling process;5. Finalising the sales and getting the commitment to buy from the customer;6. Wrapping up the process and inviting the customer back into the store; and7. Dealing with the Difficult Customer situation.

Service Down The Line

Westfield has moved to internet retailing with the announcement that it has formed a team to develop an Internet Shoppingtown.Research undertaken over the past two years has highlighted the potential for Westfield to extend the range of services it offers to both retailers and customers. "We are continually broadening the range of services we can offer retailers and their customers and the internet is one of them, as are the Westfield Visa credit card and the many in-centre customer services," says Westfield managing director, David Lowy. "We see the internet as an opportunity to enhance business in the Shoppingtowns.

This will be an important element in our strategy as consumers increasingly look for the 'out of home' experience as well as the convenience internet retailing might offer. "We also believe Westfield is well placed to help retailers develop a meaningful on-line presence. This includes small businesses which might not have the resources as well as medium and larger businesses that don't wish to 'go it alone' on the internet."Westfield Shoppingtowns already maintain an internet presence through the company's corporate websites in Australia and the USA. These are information only sites.

The new internet Shoppingtown will be completely different in design and operation. The strategy is based on three key factors: *Westfield's unique brand which is synonymous with shopping* the potential to integrate the extensive Westfield Shoppingtown portfolio with online services - more than 270 million visits are made to Westfield Shoppingtowns in Australia each year, with 5,500 retail outlets generating $7 billion in sales.* its experience in aggregating retail services and marketing them to the consumer.Building the site will be similar to building a new centre.

"Leasing agents" will convince retailers to take space on the Westfield site, using the well known brand to attract customers.With online shopping taking off worldwide, and US based retailers taking a large share of the pie, Australian retail web sites need to develop a strong presence to capitalise on the trend. "For retailers, online shopping is a powerful direct marketing and selling tool, which holds enormous potential for growth over the next few years," says Christa Davies, ninemsn's director of shopping.

Wine retailer, Wineplanet, Greengrocer.com.au and computer retailer, Harris Technology, have partnered with ninemsn to provide internet shopping services."Online shopping is just another option for people right now, but in the next couple of years it will become the way of doing things," says Douglas Carlson, managing director of Greengrocer.com.au. It is simply a better business model for the perishable food industry. We reduce inventory because we buy only what we need when we need it. The customer tells us what they want and we buy the produce on a daily basis."

First impressions are everything.We have all seen examples of this in our personal lives. When we meet someone new their appearance, tone of voice, manners (or lack of!) all have a very big effect on us.

When a customer calls or goes into an office, business or agency the first person they talk to represents the entire company. This goes even further with people who are traveling to new places: just ONE rotten experience with a rude customer service person can ever after sour the persons attitude to the entire city, region, or country!!!

To the customer YOU are the company. A good first impression starts a positive relationship with your customers. On the other hand a poor first impression can sometime end the relationship right there. And when you factor in word of mouth and how many other people the customer may talk to about their bad experience with your company you can see how important first impressions can be.

A bad first impression is not impossible to undo, but it sure takes a lot of effort. The point is if you make a great first impression things are a LOT easier.

Lets look at things from the customers point of view:

When a customer calls or walks into a business for the first time they may be: happy, anxious, worried, lost, angry, frustrated, excited, or possibly all of the above! When you, as a customer, are new to a business you dont know anyone, youre not familiar with how things work. You dont know if youre going to like it there, if they will provide good service, if they will be friendly or helpful. There are a lot of doubts and questions! Many customers go in to a business for the first time actually expecting things to go badly. Some even get ready for battle before heading off to a new restaurant, hotel, doctor or auto mechanic.

When you meet anyone new little things can affect your attitude towards the person very fast. If you already have a relationship with someone, and that person has a bad day or is in a bad mood it probably wont ruin or end your relationship. But if the person is new to you just one or two small negative points could end your relationship with the person right there.

Speaking of first impressions, it is vital that you, as the customer service professional, do not make any assumptions about customers. Judging a customer by their appearance or how they speak is a huge mistake.

So, anyone working on the front lines is supposed to do everything to make sure that they give all customers a great first impression and at the same time be sure to NOT let your first impressions of the customer in any way prevent you from delivering the best possible service. This can be a tall order sometimes.

Greeting a customerAlways make eye contact with the customer the first second they come in. Even if you are with another customer or on the phone, make eye contact and acknowledge that they are there immediately. A simple gesture tells the new person that you see them and will be right with them.

Smile! Smile! Smile! Smile! Smile! Smile!Your greeting should tell the customer, I am glad youre here!

Greetings such as:

Good morning! How can I help you today?

Hello, how is your day going so far? What can I help you with today?

Hi, we havent seen you in a while!

Welcome, what can I do for you today?

Good afternoon! What can we do for you today?

A friendly greeting immediately disarms the person and sets them at ease. It sets the tone for the rest of the interaction. No matter what the customers emotional state this will make things better. This is probably the single most important point for anyone working in any position where they greet customers.

Every person who walks in the doorEvery person who comes in MUST be greeted in the most friendly way possible: new customers, old customers, customers who come in all the time, all of them. Repair people, delivery people, people who are lost and need directions, everyone. Remember, even if the person who comes is not and never will be a customer they still will relay their experiences with your company, good or bad, to everyone they talk to.

If there is going to be a wait, tell the customer about it. Explain why, offer coffee, tea, etc. then every 10 to 15 minutes give the customer an update. Have gift cards from a local store, restaurant or espresso stand available for customers who have to wait too long. Always tell the truth about how long the wait will be. Saying it will be just a few more minutes when you know it will half an hour only makes things worse!

Things you should never do: If the customer is early for their appointment NEVER communicate in any way that this is bad or creates a problem. The point is that the person arrived! Thats great! Go give the customer a hug! Dont berate them for the crime of being early. In fact you should not use the word early. If the customer comes early the first thing to do is to tell them how happy you are to see them. You can say something like, Just have a seat and I will go (or call) and see if they are ready for you. Or something positive, just work it out so that what you are saying is not Youre early and youre RUINING my schedule!!!

Carry on a personal conversation with another employee, or phone call, while servicing a customer. This is particularly important when the customer first comes in. If you are at the front desk with another co-worker and a customer walks in you need to end any conversations you are having and look up at the customer with a smile BEFORE they reach the counter. Other wise the customer will get the impression that they are distracting you from your more important duties.

Carry on ANY negative type of conversation ABOUT ANYTHING if there is a customer with earshot. This includes conversations about: other staff, other customers, other competitors.

Convey the idea, feeling or attitude of being way too busy, overworked frantic or ANYTHING ELSE which would tell the customer that their being there is a problem. Generally customers dont want to hear about your problems at work or in your personal life. Just be positive, friendly, cheerful and happy to help them NO MATTER HOW SWAMPED YOU ARE.

Click here to learn about our WelcomeTeam Training program. Posted in answering the phone, communication, customer service, customer service management, Customer service tips and strategies, customers, effective communication, greeting customers, marketing, perception of value | Tags: customer service, loyal customers, loyal employees, Customer service tips and strategies, customers, perception of value, perception, customer perception, choosing customer service staff, friendliness, customer service staff, customer, receptionist, greeting customers, friendly phone greeting, new customers, irate customers, irritated customers, golden rule of customer service, customer complaints, good customer service, customer attitude, customer service tools, attracting new clients, attracting new patients, word of mouth, word of mouth advertising, word of mouth marketing, satisfied clients, irritated patients, loyal patients, irritated clients First Impressions and Answering thePhoneFirst Impressions, Personalized Service and CustomerLoyalty

6 Customer First Impressions

Its amazing how some organizations are good with first impressions and others are not. By first impressions I mean the first point of contact a customer has with an organization.

The reality is that customers have choices and organizations that get it pay attention to the details that matter to customers. Every organization is different as far as their first impression moment, but all organizations have that first opportunity to make their customer feel like they have come to the right place and will get their needs met.

First Impression Opportunities

1. Website

Most successful organizations have a well thought out and designed website. Todays customers use the internet to find out information about an organization. What products and services they have to offer, hours of operation, locations, customer testimonies, service guarantees and to get a general feel for the business. It is critical to take a good look at your website and try to wear a customers hat when doing so. Things to think about:

Is the look of the website current or outdated?

Is the content accurate, clear and error proof?

How easy is it to find the needed information? The last thing you want to do is frustrate a customer by making it difficult to navigate the site.

Are there pictures or video that tell a story?

2. Telephone

For some organizations, a customer calling in to ask questions or make an appointment may be the first point of contact. Things to think about:

How is the phone answered?

Does a live person answer the phone?

What are the wait and hold times?

What does the hold background music/information sound like?

Is the person answering the phone friendly, knowledgeable and able to answer questions?

How many times does a customer need to be transferred before getting information or a question answered?

How quickly are calls returned?

3. Business Lobby

When someone comes to your business, some first impressions may be the cleanliness of the parking lot, entryway and lobby. Things to think about:

Is the parking lot free from debris or blowing trash?

Is the entryway free from debris or blown leaves, etc?

Is the glass on the doors and windows clean?

What does the building smell like?I personally have sensitivity to smell and I make impressions based on smells, either good or bad.

What does the furniture and carpet look like in the waiting room?Is it clean and fresh or stained and worn?

Is the public restroom clean and fully stocked?

4. Receptionist

The receptionist is often the first representation of a business. How well they are trained or untrained tells a lot about a business. Things to think about:

Is the receptionist friendly?

Are they knowledgeable about the organization? A good receptionist knows everything about an organization from how the business started to where the business is going.

Can the receptionist answer questions?

Is the receptionist equipped to do service recovery if a customer is not happy?

Does the receptionist do personal things while on duty, for example do they eat at their desk, read or polish their nails? These may seem minor but send a message and impression of how professional the organization is.

5. Business Culture

When someone visits your business, are the workers happy and helpful? If employees are not engaging they can leave a negative impression on customers.

Do employees vent or voice frustrations in front of customers?

Do they ignore customers thinking that it is not their job or do they stop what they are doing to help the customer?

6. Marketing Materials

I know marketing materials can be expensive but they really do tell a lot about an organization. These materials should always be professionally done.They should represent the organization by having clean, error free information that is clear and informative. The goal would be for these materials to answer the questions that someone might have. When creating marketing materials, think about answering questions that relate to who, what, where, when and how.

Finally, the old saying you only have one shot at making a good first impression is true! Customers are quirky at best and business owners need to make sure their customers first impressions are positive and inviting for a customer. Using customer comment cards to gain customer perspective and training employees with service standards that are part of a structured performance management process can help prepare an organization for a positive customer experience.

How to Impress Clients with a Virtual Assistant19th Jul, 2011 | Comment | Richard Weinberg | Posted In: Featured-OL, Outsourcing Life

The first impression you make can be essential to how you develop a relationship. During that ever-important minute or two that you have to secure a potential customer you must be at your best. When you are starting out your own venture, making this first impression can be hard. You are over worked, in a hurry and have what seems like a thousand things going on all at once. This is where a virtual assistant comes into the picture.

A virtual assistant can take your calls, schedule your meetings, create presentations or even post emails on your behalf. It is like having an office assistant without having to have an office.

Think of how impressed potential clients will be when a pleasant voice answers their call instead of a voicemail box and rather than miss calls, and potential deals, they will be picked up by your ever present assistant. Think of the extra time you will have when you can simply open a file and find your schedule for the day, instead of digging through your printed emails and notes. Realize the potential you will have to sell your product or service when you are not worrying about office tasks.

Virtual assistants are skilled office personnel who telecommute instead of leaving their homes to work in a physical office. All work is done through the internet, which cuts down on costs for both parties. The business owner is not strapped with the burden of space costs, and a virtual assistant can work from their home, avoiding traveling costs.

Many large corporations already utilize virtual assistants in their corporations because of the cost saving measures for them and the increased productivity of their workers. Studies have shown over and over that telecommuters actually perform better than those in an office space.

There is no reason that you should risk making a bad first impression. Using a virtual assistant to enhance your business will provide you with an additional layer of professionalism and reduce the risk of missing an important call or meeting.

Two Ways Your Organization Can Ensure It Makes Great First Impression When Customers CallEvery experience your customers have with your organization begins with a first impression. The first impression is the first touch point that your organization has during a customer interaction and it either leaves them feeling excited to work with your company or feeling indifferent and unsure about possibility of continuing a relationship with your firm.

In many situations the first impression takes place during a phone call. Unfortunately many organizations do not take advantage of this opportunity to create a powerful first impression. There are two main reasons that this happens.

The first reason a good first impression is often missed on a phone call is the lack of proper customer service procedures that place an emphasis on call scripting and consistency. While most companies take the time to show their team members how to operate their phone systems, very few instruct them how to answer the phone properly, and even fewer have established telephone scripts to instruct employees exactly how to answer the phone and respond the customers call.

Consistency is paramount when it comes to providing exceptional telephone customer service. You cannot afford to greet current and future customers differently each time they call. Your organization has a brand image and part of that image is how the customer is greeted when they call. If the customer is greeted differently (sometimes good, sometimes bad) every time they call, your brand will quickly lose value in the customers mind and they will wonder what version of your organization they will receive each time they call.

Just as Coca Cola ensures that every can of Coke tastes the exact same, so should your organization when it comes to how your customers are greeted on the phone by your employees.

The second reason many organizations miss the opportunity to create an excellent first impression is that it has the wrong people answering the phones. Lets face it not everyone is cut out to provide great customer service, and not everyone will enjoy answering the phones.

Why is this? Not everyone loves people! While an employee can fake it for a while, if they are not truly a people person your current and future customers will eventually notice and their experience with your organization will suffer as a result.

Hiring the right people to answer the phones is critical to making a good first impression on the telephone. This cannot be understated. Like it or not, the right employee team member is essential to a strong first impression and creating a customer experience that will leave your customers coming back time and time again.

What can you do to make a good first impression when a current or future customer calls your organization?

First Create a telephone customer service calling script that will instruct your team members not only what to say, but how to say it, and when. When left to their own devices some employees will provide exceptional customer service with little instruction, while some will fall far short of expectations. Creating an incoming call script will make certain that all employees are on the same page when it comes to answering the phone and will ensure that your customers get a good impression of your organization every time they call.

The Phone Coach has extensive experience creating call scripts that will leave your customers saying Wow! Click here for more information.

Secondly Hire the right team members that will take pride in creating a great first impression over the telephone. Again, the importance of this cannot be understated. The wrong team member answering the phones can create a poor first impression with a poor tone of voice and a lack of enthusiasm for their job, even with the most carefully crafted phone script.

The Phone Coach has helped numerous organizations hire the right team members to answer the phone and create great first impressions. Click here for more information.

Creating a positive first impression is too important to be left to chance. Contact The Phone Coach today for more information on how you can ensure that your customers are left saying Wow! after they call your organization

Impress Clients with the Best Reception and Conference Room Furniture

Posted by Sherwin on December 7, 2010 6 Comments

Companies that want to get more customers or clients to avail of their products or services employ a number of strategies to do so but many of the strategies involved makes use of a simple principle that of enhancing the company and brand image.

One of the many ways you can make a company look good is by dressing up your office professionally with the right interior design and the appropriate furnishings. While this should apply to the entire companys work spaces, there are two areas that business owners will need to put extra attention on: the reception area and office boardroom or conference room.

The reception area is the part of the office that outsiders get a glimpse of. Visitors, clients, potential clients, partners, even applicants, walk through the reception each and every day. Hence, it is important to have the perfect reception furniture for it. A good chair or sofa where visitors can sit and wait is always a good element of this part of the office. Along with a suitable reception counter or desk for the receptionist, the reception area is capable of giving that good first impression to anyone who walks into the offices front doors.

Another part of the office that is more frequently seen by outsiders is the conference room. This room is a place where meetings with people not necessarily directly connected with the company are held. Meetings with potential clients and partners are held in the conference room. Hence, since many deals and business relationships are forged within this room, it is of utmost importance that it also gives its users that conducive, professional atmosphere. You can accomplish this by equipping it with the suitable conference and boardroom tables.

There are many different sizes and types of conference or boardroom tables but some of the most popular ones are made of wood and glass and the question on which one to choose will depend on how it will work with the prevailing theme or design of the offices interior. When it comes to office interior design, it is always best to consult an expert designer if you do not want to screw things up.

First impressions count!

First impressions count!Designers make sure that our modern galleries are attractive and interesting, not just a series of dusty showcases National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, LondonFirst impressions play an important part in how customers feel about their visit.

The immediate impression on arrival at the National Maritime Museum (NMM) is of a modern museum with a wide use of audio-visuals and dramatic sets for the display of our historic artefacts. 'It's a lot more interesting than I expected' said a leisure-and-tourism student recently, which reflects our determination to provide a unique, inspirational and high quality experience.

Despite popular 'blockbuster' exhibitions and tourism awards, many people still think museums are 'boring' places with rows of 'posh' objects behind glass cases.

The perception that museums are not for them and offer nothing to do can be a bigger barrier to people visiting, than bad transport links or the cost of a ticket.

Excellent customer service is about creating a good impression: meeting the needs and exceeding the expectations of visitors, and making them feel welcome, excited and valued.

Excellent customer service is wasted if people don't visit in the first place. Good marketing is also good customer service. It can make our 'products' attractive and welcoming to different types of visitor.