The heck with first impressions

At a chamber of commerce mixer recently, one of the other attendees and I found ourselves talking about the significance of first impressions.

For whatever reason, he was adamant that making a good first impression is the most important thing a business should do. But when he completed his thoughts, I responded by saying that I thought first impressions were not nearly as important as lasting impressions.

And then I shared a story of walking into a restaurant in New York City, looking around at the incredible decor, taking in some incredible aromas, and being greeted and seated courteously and efficiently by the maître d’.

It was a great first impression and we were off to a great start. None of use could have wished for more.  In fact, had you asked me at that point about my experience in the restaurant, I absolutely would have raved about it.

We gave the waitress our drink order and that arrived to the table quickly. There were eight of us in all and I am sympathetic that that does not necessarily make it easy for any waiter or waitress. But she carefully took notes, and disappeared. Unlike fast food restaurants, fine restaurants often do take their time in bringing a main course to the table. It’s part of their desire to create a relaxed, no-pressure experience for its patrons –– to allow them time to socialize with their friends and have a few extra drinks. So we didn’t object to the delay.

When the food finally arrived, practically all of the special requests had been ignored. Plus, many entrées were either overcooked or undercooked. And, unfortunately, trying to get the situation corrected was no easy task. But with some perseverance and insistence by one of the guests at our table, meals went back to the kitchen and then were returned to us.

The bottom line to this story is that only one person at the table had a meal that they felt was above standard. The rest of us were doing more complaining than smiling.

The point is, that what brings consumers back to a restaurant or to any other business establishment is not the first impression that that restaurant or business makes. It is the lasting impression that we take with us when we leave. It’s that lasting impression that either encourages us to return and contribute more of our hard earned money to that establishment or to cross it off our list of places to patronize another time.

So if you ask me, creating that lasting impression is what it’s all about. It’s the total take-away… the total experience… that makes you want to return and tell your friends. And every extraordinary lasting impression begins with an equally  extraordinary first impression.


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One Response to The heck with first impressions

  1. Gemma Laming says:

    Both! But I find that I can tell a good customer extremely quickly – or a bad one for that matter. Taking a risk – or asking something of the person you’ve just met that is a little risky (not risque!) will lead them to trust you more.

    The ones I can work with are the kind of people who can put my ideas into practice – and that usually means they’ve got the kind of self-confidence to listen to their clients. As a marketer that is crucial for me.

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