They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I think most dads can relate to the idea of a first impression if you’ve ever had to meet a daughter’s new boyfriend. Moms can relate as well, but their expectations may be different. We can all remember when we were that boyfriend or bringing home that boyfriend and the impressions we made, which were not always that good. This may have had an impact on your relationship, and your happiness.
Today, the most important first impression you can make is on new customers. These impressions may greatly impact your wallet! I’ve visited many different shops across the country and each has left me with a first impression. Some positive, but many of them were negative. And the important point to be made here is that I may not be as judgmental as your average consumer who is more used to shopping at upscale malls than at machine shops.
When I was much younger, I toured a machine shop that built large parts for Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles or ICBMs. Talk about clean and organized. It was like an operating room at a hospital. And it was exactly what I had expected and left a lasting impression. Around the same time, I toured a GM plant. Again, it was everything I imagined and then some. Have you ever seen pictures or any video footage from a NASCAR race shop? What was your first reaction? Mine was that I’d love to work there. Somehow I knew that power, technology and endurance was created in this clean, shiny and organized environment. It was exactly what I expected and I trusted that first impression.
My point is that first impressions are influenced by expectations, they are not solely based on first sight. The closer we meet a customer’s high expectation, the better the impression and the more money they will be willing to part with at your place of business. The opposite is true of low expectations.
Think about it: if you need a job done, but you’re on a tight budget, how does that impact your choice of providers? If your car needs a repair and you just don’t have a large budget, you don’t take it to the dealership. Instead, you picture a repair shop that is willing to work for less. Now why do you associate them with lower cost? What is different about the dealership?
Many shops today are barely hanging on. Business is changing every day. Society is getting much more sophisticated, much more competitive and service industries much more expensive. Is that the case in your shop? If the answer is no, maybe it’s time to look around you. Maybe the environment you have grown accustomed to looks more like 1977 than 2017. Could this be affecting your clientele? They could be more accustomed to or expecting something completely different. If this is your business model, excuse me for judging. Yes, there are all kinds of customers with all kinds of budgets. If you’ve chosen a particular social economic set, and this old image is what they relate to, more power to you. You’ve recognized a target market and you’re meeting expectations.
But for those tired of a “too small” paycheck, who want to take back control of their business and their own situation, maybe it’s time to look at things from another perspective. Wayne Dyer once said “Change The Way You Look At Things And The Things You Look At Change.” He is right when he’s talking about having a positive outlook, but I think the same can be true if you only put yourself in your customers shoes and try to see things from their perspective. What excites you about the places you frequent? What might be turning customers off about a visit to your crib? How can we turn this around?
These are questions we have to ask ourselves if we want to make any kind of change. We certainly must also open our eyes. If I were to walk into your place of business, what would I see?
If I walk into your front door and find new jobs still sitting there, waiting to be run back into the shop, I might think things aren’t getting done and my job may be delayed. If I can’t get in the door and close to your front counter, I might assume you didn’t want my business, believing that if you did, you’d make it easier for me to get the job in the place. And you do have a front counter or a place to do business, don’t you?
Now that I’m in the shop, what else do I see? How and when am I greeted? Most sensible people understand when a person is working and will wait for you to finish your phone call, torquing those bolts or instructing your employee. But they also appreciate an acknowledgment of their presence and an assurance that they’ll be attended to as soon as possible.
While waiting, what am I going to learn by looking around? Are your secrets hidden and bodies buried? Or are you telegraphing all kinds of messages from your faded old posters, dirty old cores and junk motors with unpaid bills attached, laying around and in the way? Is the place well lit or a dark cave that makes it look like you can’t afford your electric bill?
First impressions can make or break your business. They can send a message of professionalism, quality and high value or one of a budget provider, still living in the past with a price sheet to match. You certainly don’t want customers to feel they have to get out as quickly as possible to keep from being injured or ruining everything they’re wearing. You can offer a place where a customer is comfortable and secure in spending their money, as opposed to one where they’ll be expecting a discount for cash.
The budget for this new “lobby” doesn’t have to break the bank. A little clean up and some white paint on some freshly uncluttered walls can go a long way. Get the old and the new jobs out of the way and in the back behind the counter where they belong. Next, clean the floors so no one walks out with something they haven’t walked in with. Replace those old wall posters with some fresh paint. If you need some wall coverings, contact your suppliers. I know I have plenty of manufacturers’ posters for anyone who’ll post them.
Lastly, let’s not forget about the impression you and your employees can make. Uniforms or even work shirts make a much better impression than old greasy strip club T-shirts. UPS says, “Everything your customers see tells a story. What story do you want them to see?” I really don’t know any better way to say it. Now go out there and put your best story forward!