First impressions matter in business. If a potential customer gets bad vibes from your business based on an initial encounter, they may decide not to use your company.
Potential employees may similarly decide not to work for your company, while investors and suppliers may similarly think twice before working with you.
All in all, first impressions can impact the relationships you build with other people.
Creating good first impressions is likely to encourage more customers, better job applicants, and more partnership/investment opportunities. Poor first impressions may cause you to lose out on all of this.
There are many things that can negatively impact your company’s first impressions. Below are some of the most common causes of poor first impressions in business and what to do to fix this.
Poor website design
For many modern businesses, a website is the first point of contact that many customers have. If your website is poorly designed, it could make your company appear amateurish, outdated, or even shady. This in turn could scare away customers.
What makes a website poorly designed? A few things that could be worth amending include:
- Poor navigation
- Low-quality or stretched images
- Clashing colors/unreadable fonts
- Broken CTA buttons, links, or plug-ins
- Mobile-unfriendly design
- Slow-loading pages
Consider surveying people to see what they think about your website. If there are a lot of complaints, it could be worth redesigning your website. It’s worth hiring a professional web developer to handle this redesign.
Negative online reviews
When it comes to making the right impressions online, you may also want to consider the quality of your online reviews. If any of your online reviews are negative, it could cause many people to lose trust in your business.
You cannot always remove negative online reviews. In many cases, the best thing to do is to focus on building more positive online reviews so that the good feedback outweighs the bad feedback.
Consider getting in touch with any happy clients you’ve worked within the past and ask them to kindly leave a review. In fact, you could make it a habit of requesting reviews from every happy customer (but avoid doing so if a customer has had a negative experience).
Phone calls not being answered
If a potential customer calls you and cannot get through, they may decide to not call again, instead of calling up one of your competitors. This is why it’s so important to always answer the phone whenever you can – you could be losing out on customers by not answering.
If you find it difficult to constantly answer the phone, consider whether you need to hire a receptionist to answer the phone for you. Nowadays, it’s possible to outsource a virtual receptionist who can handle general inquiries and sales calls on your behalf.
Avoid using an automated receptionist – while these robot receptionists can be used to direct people to the right department, using them to handle entire calls could put off certain callers who would much rather speak to a human.
Dirty/dilapidated business premises
If your store/office is dirty or dilapidated, this could be a big red flag to customers and applicants. The condition of your business premises can be viewed as a reflection of how you run your business – if it’s a mess to look at, people will assume that your business is a mess.
Start by considering the outside of your business premises. A poorly maintained parking lot could be something to address first – you can click here to learn about parking lot maintenance. You may also want to fix any broken or outdated signage. Cleaning windows could also be important, as well as going over any paintwork that is faded or peeling.
You should then consider the inside of your premises. If your premises has a reception lobby, make sure that this is kept clean and make sure that furniture isn’t shabby. Focus on areas that customers or applicants are likely to see such as the bathroom (although that doesn’t mean the rest of your premises should be allowed to stay in poor condition).
Unnecessarily long waiting times
Nobody likes having to wait for long periods. Sometimes queues cannot be avoided. However, if you keep someone waiting due to your own lack of punctuality or negligence, this could be a red flag.
If a customer or applicant has an appointment booked for a certain time, try to stick to this time as rigidly as you can. Try to also prepare for busy periods by having staff on hand or by improving your tech (such as installing another POS machine to serve more customers in a store).
One thing that is very important is to regularly check in on customers as they wait. This could include letting customers know how long their food is or setting up a phone queue that tells people where customers are in the queue.
Don’t simply ignore customers while they wait, as they may not feel valued.
On the topic of ignoring people, you should always try to greet visitors as they enter your premises whenever you can. Letting an applicant wait in reception without welcoming them or ignoring a customer as they walk into your quiet store may give a sense that you do not care about them.
Even if you are busy, try to greet people who are waiting. Simple acknowledgment is so important for making people feel welcome.
Untidy personal appearance
Not every job requires you to dress smart. However, you should try to keep your appearance clean and tidy as this will gain trust. A few things that can negatively impact first impressions include:
- A visibly dirty appearance (e.g. dirty clothes, dirty nails)
- Unkempt hair or facial hair
- Creased clothing
- Worn or shabby clothing
- Bad body odor
Make an effort with your personal appearance and encourage employees to do the same. This will help to gain people’s trust.
Service without a smile
The final thing that is certain to give off poor first impressions is not smiling. A smile is a simple way of showing people that you are approachable. Serve people while scowling and you may make them feel unwelcome.
Work-related stress or personal issues may make it difficult to smile in some situations.
However, you should try your best not to take out your unhappiness on customers, applicants, or suppliers – your business relies on being approachable to these people, so make an effort to smile whenever you can, even if it’s just an initial smile.