Mom Was Right When She Said, "Always Be Nice"

First impressions set tone for your business

At Your Service



Remember when your mom always told you to make a good first impression because it could last forever? Well, as usual, mom was right.

I keep saying to myself — why do I have to write these articles on customer service, and tell people how to be nice to one another? I mean, next year is 2000; shouldn’t we be getting this right by now?

Let’s talk about first impressions, or the lack of, or the really bad ones. Let’s start with the phone. Aren’t you all getting annoyed with voice mail? And when you try to get to the operator, hit 0 and get a recording: “I’m sorry, that is not a recognized number.” Now you’re in the voice-mail Bermuda Triangle of Hell with no way to return. If you do get out, you probably have to hang up and try all over again.

I’ll just make this real simple (I know some of you are now going to get mad at me). All the world-class companies have a receptionist to answer their phones. Let me repeat: the best do this. And why? Because the receptionist is the most important person in a company. They set the tone. A real, live person means real, live customer service, period. If you don’t believe me call Ritz Carlton, Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines, Lexus, etc. and you will hear a wonderful person with a great attitude answer the phone, which leaves a good impression.

If you are not the receptionist and just have a phone in your office, be nice and listen to people and let them finish the sentence. Oh yeah, smile too, because people can feel that ray of sunshine on the other end.

Phone don’ts:

  • Don’t replace your receptionist.
  • Don’t be quick or abrupt.
  • Don’t talk with your mouth full (another mom-ism).

Phone dos:

  • Do be nice.
  • Do smile on the phone.
  • Do listen more and talk less.
  • Do say “thank you.”
  • Do laugh and have fun — remember, 70 percent of your waking moments are spent at work, so enjoy them.

Everywhere we go, we have people making lousy first impressions which cause us to think of either not going back to that place, or of telling other people how bad the experience was. An example of this is when you go into a restaurant and you can tell right away if the service is going to be good or awful. Your first impression starts with how long you wait to be seated and how long it takes a server to come over to your table. If they smile, are nice, attentive and sincere, that’s a good start and makes me pretty happy. You could have the greatest food and if the service is bad, you still won’t go back. Service and impressions are everything!

It is much easier to be nice to people and put yourself in their shoes. How do they feel? Do they like being ignored? Are they getting impatient? Do they want someone to at least acknowledge their presence? I think you’re getting the message.

People don’ts:

  • Don’t ignore; at least tell people you’ll be right back.
  • Don’t worry about yourself — put the customer first.
  • Don’t be moody; the customer wants someone in a good mood.

People dos:

  • Do be enthusiastic — people love to be around “up” people.
  • Do be nice. This is easy to say and sometimes hard to do.
  • Do what you say. If you tell someone you’ll be back in five minutes, better make it five minutes.
  • Do have fun. Your day goes faster, your co-workers will enjoy being around you and so will your customers.

Remember: Customer service is and will always be an attitude. And you’re only as good as your worst employee. People remember the bad a lot more than they remember the good.

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