Since you’re reading this blog, you might have noticed that Dexter + Chaney has a brand new website. Aside from a cleaner look, the new website is much easier to navigate and is loaded with new features and resources for both our Spectrum® Construction Software and the construction industry as a whole. The site was a ready for an upgrade, one focusing on a user experience more closely mirroring the leading-edge technology Dexter + Chaney has been producing.
However, this post is not about websites or software. It’s about first impressions. That first connection with someone, whether in business or your personal life, can determine—in a matter of seconds—how a conversation, interaction, business transaction, or relationship will ultimately turn out. A website, for instance, is a significant vehicle for first impressions. Have one that is non-pleasing to the eye or frustrates users with broken page links or confusing navigation? Odds are those visiting your page are not going to feel too good about continuing a dialogue with you or buying what you’re selling.
A website is just one example. First impressions are made every day, with nearly every interaction you have. Answer your phone with a grumpy disposition, say the wrong thing on a social networking site, act in ways that are indifferent—or worse, insensitive—to your customers’ or employees’ needs—these are all ways you have leave lasting negative impressions that are difficult at best to amend.
One of my favorite recent examples of creating a bad first impression comes from London in February of this year. In a social media post that has since gone viral, a gentleman explains that on his way to work, he was rudely pushed and subsequently blocked from entering the London Underground train he needed to get to work by a boorish man who used some rather choice language in defending his cretin-like behavior. Once our commentator did arrive at work, where his job as a recruiter was to fill some pretty important employment positions, he realized that his first candidate was none other than the man who treated him so rudely just an hour or so prior. Of course, the candidate’s actions earlier likely prevented him from acquiring that job.
The post went viral as evidence of karma. However, I see it more as a case study for first impressions. In business, what you do—or don’t do—can strongly impact the public’s perception of you, your brand, your company and even your industry. Here are just five key areas where your company might want to look at the first impressions you’re making and whether they can stand for some improvement.
Make Your Website Welcoming—As noted above, a drab, confusing to navigate or not properly functioning website can spell doom for a positive first impression. You don’t have to go all out and add every bell and whistle in terms of look and functionality, but make it easy for your visitors to get the information they want in a quick, painless process. This is one of the best ways to get the message you want to send out to the masses, so make sure that message is front and center and not buried in frustration.
Pep Up Your Person-to-Person Communication—Another key decider of first impressions is how your employees treat the customers or prospective customers. Don’t greet folks interested in doing business with you like they’re taking up your valuable time. Answer your phone calls or return emails with a pleasant demeanor. Offer to help with additional assistance or make yourself available to folks if they have more questions. Going the extra mile here can set you apart from your competition.
Don’t leave people hanging—If someone reaches out to you for information questions about your product or service, respond as quickly as possible. One of the worst first impressions to make is to give the impression that you’re not interested in their business. This goes for all subsequent interactions as well. If someone has to wait a week to hear back on something that should take 10 minutes to resolve, it will leave them with a bad taste in their mouth and your company with a reputation as being non-responsive.
Take Pride in Your Brand—Everything from your company logo and motto to the condition of your offices and equipment in the field makes an impression. If your company’s brand gives people the impression it was thrown together as a second thought, or if your offices, vehicles and even people are not presentable, you’re sure not going to win many people over.
Ditch the Defensiveness—No one can make everyone happy. Mistakes will be made and unhappy customers will always be around. But rather than fighting to protect your company’s honor in the public forum, take the high road. Show restraint and calm, even if an unhappy customer rips into your company. If need be, respond with grace, apologies and/or an earnest statement that you strive to provide your customers with the best service or product. Too often, especially with the online emergence of companies like Yelp or Angie’s List, we see companies go on the offensive against bad reviews or complaints. This usually turns into a public relations nightmare and can leave the public thinking that maybe they should avoid your company.
These are just a few of the high-impact ways your company can shine or shrink when it comes to first impressions. What approach does your company take to improving its image?