published by the Nashville Business Journal
First impressions are everything in life and in business, so be sure to make good ones. Think about people you have met over the years. You might find that you immediately picture the first moment you met—that initial impression. And that impression is difficult to change, so make every inaugural meeting work in your favor, not against you or your business.
The receptionist. This is one of the first visual points of contact in the business world so strive to make it work to your company’s benefit. Isn’t a chipper, well-dressed, helpful, conversational professional who we all want to greet us? This first contact sends a critical message about your organization. Make it a positive one.
The salesperson. This is another first point of contact with potentially large financial implications. In this case each element must be correct at the outset—professional appearance, solid handshake, a smile and direct eye contact. When these basics begin right then subsequent conversation about a product and service has a much better chance of success.
The “switchboard.” In this situation we have two options: machine (common) or human (preferred). If using an answering machine, make sure your recorded message is crisp, friendly and gets to the point quickly, without too many confusing options. You goal is to make it easy and efficient for the caller to connect with the party they are looking for. If you can staff folks to answer the phone that’s even better. Train them to use a warm and friendly tone to make callers glad they called. For example, “Hello this is Joe Scarlett. Thank you for calling the Scarlett Widget Company today. How may I help you?”
The voicemail. This is another wildly varying point of first contact, from the anonymous, automated “leave a message at the tone” version, to my all-time favorite “personalized with passion” voicemail style, which I’ve found great success with over the years. My version is updated weekly and includes key information, plus a status update. Example: “Hello this is Joe Scarlett. Thanks for calling. I’m on the road this week visiting stores in Nebraska, back in the office on Friday. Leave me a message and I will get back to you Friday—or maybe even today.” A quality voicemail leaves the caller feeling informed and a little warm-and-fuzzy about you.
First impressions can make all the difference in the world. Make sure that yours are first class.