Bursar’s Review: First Impressions
5 Seconds to make a first impression – Use them well!
- Adjust your attitude
- Stand Tall – look professional and confident
- Eye Contact
- Open Body Language
- Offer a warm greeting
- Shake Hands
- Use the Customer’s name!
Research tells us that First Impressions are made in 5-7 seconds! So…by about now, you will have already deemed this article as something you will continue to read … or something you won’t. Similarly you may look at my photograph below and consider me “likeable” or “non-likeable.” It’s human instinct! We form opinions about people the first time we see or hear them. We even form opinions about people we have never met!
As a customer service specialist who provides workshops, keynotes and consultations, I know from my profession that we are all judged by people all the time. We are judged through "What we say", and "How we say it". We are also judged by "How we Dress", "How we walk" and even "How we shake hands!” (Recall now when you’ve had a limp, wet one!)
You CANNOT, NOT! make a first impression. People always form an initial impression about us the first time they come in contact with us, - whether it is in person or whether it is over the telephone, email or even by the way we leave a message on an answering machine. Create a good first impression and the relationship grows from there. Create a bad first impression and your relationship with that person can be an uphill battle.
People's "perception" about us DOES matter.
Nowadays, it is no longer enough to employ staff with the best degree, the highest achievements or the greatest technical experience – companies these days are demanding social awareness and interpersonal skills. They have started to realise that the most valuable aspects of jobs are the most essentially human tasks: sensing, judging, creating, and building relationships.
However, what we now know to be vitally important we seem unable to measure.
To push the importance of my point – here’s a moment in history which demonstrated an inability to measure:
Let me take your mind back to a dark foggy night in October of 1707.
Great Britain lost nearly an entire fleet of ships. There was no pitched battle at sea. The admiral, Clowdsley Shovell, (what a totally fantastic name isn’t it!) simply miscalculated his position in the Atlantic and his flagship smashed into the rocks of the Scilly Isles. The rest of the fleet, following blindly behind, went aground and piled into the rocks, one after another. Four warships and two thousand lives were lost.
For such a proud nation of seafarers, this tragic loss was distinctly embarrassing. But to be fair to the memory of Clowdesley Shovell, it was not altogether surprising. The concept of latitude and longitude had been around since the first century BC. But by 1700 we still hadn’t managed to devise an accurate way to measure longitude – nobody ever knew for sure how far east or west they had traveled. Professional seamen like Clowdesley Shovell had to estimate their progress either by guessing their average speed or by dropping a cabin boy … or…was that a log?! over the side of the boat and timing how long it took to float from bow to stern. Forced to rely on such crude measurements, the admiral can be forgiven his massive misjudgment.
What caused the disaster was not the admiral’s ignorance, but his inability to measure something that he knew to be critically important – in this case longitude.
A similar drama is playing out in today’s business world as what we now know to be vitally important we still seem unable to measure.
Let me try to illustrate this conundrum: I have 2 daughters – one whom the state system had labeled “gifted & talented” and an elder one who was considering her options for 6th form college. We visited 4 private schools locally to our home in Brighton – all were pre-arranged, show-round appointments.
Your School is initially judged by the way your receptionist answers the telephone (or an email enquiry), or greets people at the door. My experiences here ranged from very poor, very mediocre through to very impressive indeed! Perhaps after you have read this article you will make a call into your own school (with the fresh eyes of a wannabe parent) and see the first impression you gain from that call?
When we arrived for our show rounds, we were subjected to:
A) A “museum tour” where ‘one-size-fits-all-families’. B) An “old-school” (excuse the pun) … condescending glare with an air of “Is this child good enough for our establishment?” C) A prospectus thrust into our hands with a hurried “Everything you need to know is in the pack!” and finally, D) A very personalised, tailored, and empathetic tour! ……….You will be in no doubt at this stage as to which one we were most leaning towards!
Private school is not a cheap option. Nor is it an impulsive purchase. Time, Consideration, Support, Reassurance are just a few of the additional efforts required in securing such a commitment. Let’s consider a school costing around £5000 per term. Divide this by an average 53 days in the term, that equates to £94.39 per day. At £94.39 per day …. I want to be seduced….! (Or at least courted…) by what your school has to offer me! Not just beautiful old buildings and facilities or quality of teaching staff - But a whole lifestyle. An institution. A future. A social network. Etiquette. Happiness. Manner & Approach. Confidence. Culture… That’s really what I’m buying isn’t it? How do you sell these intangibles?
I’m sure you will agree that a school should be showcased in the most beneficial and advantageous way. Tours to be tailor-made to meet the individual’s requirements. Admissions staff to have the ‘edge’ when it comes to satisfying the parent’s deciding factor of “What is most important? What are the 3 criteria? How will I decide…?”
Ultimately you will be looking to increase conversion rates of show rounds to enrollments. Complacency therefore, has no place in 2010 – no longer can you rest on your laurels and believe your reputation will ensure your success and security of the future. We need to start ‘WOWING’ our customers with our difference. Customer Service is the differentiator of the 21st century. There is more choice these days and less money. Your people are your shop window – if your customers don’t like what they see they will simply go somewhere else.
I often ask delegates to provide me with examples of Good, Bad and Excellent Customer Service which they have experienced. Whilst there are generally many examples for the first two, there is always a distinct lull and a kind of frustration as people struggle to recall an excellent or enchanting customer experience. This is most tragic as positive Word of Mouth marketing is simply the very best out there! We all love to talk a lot more, however, about the bad, the negative and the downright ugly.
4 Years ago I use to talk about the ‘250 Rule’ - The 250 Rule simply described how we all know 250 people in life and that’s how many people could possibly be influenced by just one bad customer experience. Nowadays though, nowadays it’s far more serious! Nowadays we have Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, Youtube. Nowadays, if you give me the brush off or rub me up the wrong way, I can tell, ooh…10,000 people how irritated I am!
So, now we know what is vitally important we must be sure to measure it. We need to measure the intangibles, the research & development, the customer satisfaction and indeed the employee satisfaction.
Let me leave you with a most poignant summation: Think now of the cost of a term’s fees at your school. Multiply this by 3. (3 terms in a year). And now multiply this by the number of years your school accommodates a child. Some of you reading this will have a figure of £100,000 plus in your head, others of you will have as much as £225,000! And that’s just for ONE child! Can you afford to jeopardise just one of our customers? Can we really continue not to measure the importance of consistently excellent customer service?
Spider on the Wall Ltd
Sales and Customer Service Consultant