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Creating a Great First Impression

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First impressions mean everything; they only take minutes to develop, but years to change. Regardless of your work quality and repair expertise, the experience and environment that customers are exposed to immediately after stepping inside your facility could be the biggest factor in their decision of whether to do business with you.

Dante Paulazzo, owner of M Service Inc. in Walnut Creek, Calif.—who consistently receives glowing reviews for the customer treatment he provides—offers seven simple tips to help your shop create a pleasant environment and develop highly positive first impressions.

1. Communicate smoothly. We’ve trained our staff to speak very intelligently. We have specific standard operating procedures (SOPs) for checking customers in—there is a certain way we do it and specific questions we ask. That protocol allows our office staff to guarantee smooth interactions and a smooth process, which is hugely important to help customers perceive our business as a well-oiled machine.

To foster better communication, we’ve hidden our computer monitors inside the reception counter. They’re flush with the counter and never have anything sitting on top. That allows for better eye contact and more intimate one-on-one conversations.

2. Listen before you sell. Our office staff is very good at listening and letting customers talk. Customers don’t like to repeat themselves, so our office staff is highly focused on acquiring all information directly from them before asking additional questions or applying a sales pitch.

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3. Offer basic amenities. Inside the lobby area, we offer a free coffee bar, water and Wi-Fi to every customer. We also have nice leather couches and an array of reading materials—everything from car magazines, to home and garden publications, to retail catalogs.

4. Wear professional attire. Each member of our office staff wears nicely pressed slacks and button-down shirts with embroidered logos. Professional dress conveys our business competence, and enhances our clean and courteous image.

5. Provide instant, personal attention. It’s essential to acknowledge customers and give them attention right away. Don’t ignore them while you finish what you’re doing. We try to say hello and acknowledge every customer by name as they enter.

6. Be transparent throughout. We have a window in the waiting room that looks into the shop floor so customers can see what’s happening while they’re standing at the front counter. We use that as a sales tool by reinforcing our professionalism throughout the facility. Our shop floor is always clean and tidy. The floors are painted, and it’s swept, mopped and cleaned every night.

7. Create a pleasant atmosphere. Our shop looks more like a retail store than it does a repair shop. The lobby area is carpeted and well lit, and the walls are painted and designed with artwork. It’s also kept very clean and uncluttered.

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