Mere seconds – as few as 10, or 20 and certainly no more than about 60. 60 precious seconds for your business to establish a first impression with a new customer or prospect. And the same 60 seconds could be the tipping point for the whole customer life cycle and can make or break the opportunity to gain customer loyalty.
When we think of customer loyalty, we often think about ways to intrigue prospects and engage customers, building a relationship over time. So you might be surprised to find out the extent to which the first impression actually fuels customer loyalty. First impressions aren’t just critical to customer loyalty, they’re essential. In First Impressions Critical for Fueling Customer Loyalty on marketing charts.com, an April 2012 survey by ClickFox reveals that “customer loyalty is most often formed as a result of first impressions…”
- 48% of consumers surveyed indicated that the most critical time for a company to gain their loyalty is with the very first purchase or service.
- A close second, four out of ten said the most critical moment was when a business had the opportunity to resolve and issue.
- And in a distant third, 10% even said that the most critical time for a company to gain loyalty is before they even decide to do business with you.
But maybe it does make sense, because the first impression is by far the strongest; each and every subsequent interaction an individual has with your business then either supports and strengthens their first impression or undermines it. The more the first impression is reinforced, the stronger it becomes and the harder it becomes to undermine.
That’s why loyal customers will often give you the benefit of the doubt on the rare occasion that your business fails to live up to what they have come to expect, based on the first impression of your business and each subsequent interaction which has strengthened it.
They will view an occasional shortcoming as an exception, rather than the norm, while an individual less experienced with your business will probably not give you a second chance. If something does go wrong, the loyal customer is more patient. They are far more likely to tell you about a problem and give you a chance to resolve it.
And loyal customers won’t just stick with you, they will refer friends and family to your business as well.
Now that you realize how important the first impression really is when it comes to building a cadre of brand advocates – customer loyalty that causes individuals to favor you over lower priced competitors, give you the benefit of the doubt and who will, without doubt, be your best source of word of mouth referrals – now that you understand the importance of the first impression that your business makes, it’s time for you to evaluate the first impressions your business is making, across all customer touch points.
And even beyond evaluating and improving your first point of contact with prospects and customers, now that you are thinking about the first impression your business makes, get strategic. Plan each first prospect and customer point of contact so that the first impression made by your business is as positively extraordinary and exceptional as possible. Take control of all of the elements possible so that nothing about your customer’s first impression of your business is left to chance.
There are many touch points within your business where a first impression can be made (and so which need to be evaluated):
- The parking area outside your building, your entrance (and any areas the customer must pass through to get there), lobby, waiting area – all of those places where a customer must pass through or stop before actually doing business or receiving a service from your business.
- The landing page of your website, your email ad or newsletter (which could be forwarded from a friend), your social media profile pages, banner ads and other online media.
- Your business card, print advertisement, catalog, direct mailing or other collateral.
- You and your staff as the ambassadors of your business.
As you begin to evaluate your first points of customer contact, try to look at each with fresh eyes. It might even help to have a trusted friend or peer who is not familiar with your customer touch points to ‘secret shop’ each and give you some of their impressions. Some of the things to take into consideration, which are under your control to create a good first impression with customers include things like:
- telephone answering greeting and on-hold messages
- design (of collateral) both in terms of style and how well /consistently they are branded to your business
- overall ambiance or “feel”
- aromas, scents, or aromatherapy
- employees uniform or dress, and overall appearance
You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and in terms of customer loyalty, it’s the one thing that could be the most important factor to whether they become long-term, loyal customers. It’s well-worth the attention, time and effort it will take to analyze and improve each customer touch point!
- Customer Loyalty – Convenience or Emotional? (business2community.com)
- The Little Things that Cost Your Business Big Time (365 days of marketing)