The Psychology of a Great First Impression

June 18, 2018
One shop owner explains how to hook a customer from the moment he or she steps into your shop.
Jeana Babcock, co-owner of Rochester, Minn.–based Babcock Auto Care, says that designing a welcoming space has been a vital way to market to her customer base, and bring her shop’s revenue past the $2.9 million mark. In fact, Babcock says she has helped a few of her co-members with the Automotive Training Institute redesign their spaces to make them more homey and to better attract their target customers.

Babcock describes how her shop is designed to give customers a great first impression, and feel at home as soon as they walk through the doors.

1. Create an inviting entrance.

A customer’s first impression begins the second he or she pulls into your shop’s parking lot. That’s why it’s crucial that you create a welcoming entrance that immediately communicates the experience your shop will provide for the customer and that it will be a non-intimidating experience. Shrubs or full flowers, welcome mats and shop logos on the windows are simple ways to quickly show that your shop is professional.

“Everyone knows how important it is to brand your business,” Babcock says. “It doesn’t have to be overdone or in your face, but it can be as simple as a branded welcome mat for customers to wipe their feet on as they enter.”

2. Make customers feel at ease.

“When customers walk into our facility, we want them to feel welcome and at ease immediately—like they are walking into their own home,” Babcock says. “This is accomplished with a pallet of warm colors, comfortable furniture, and a fireplace lounge.”

The reason those types of accents were chosen was because Babcock wanted to create a cozy space that customers would view as the antithesis of the typical auto repair shop. The pattern on the wall was created by a local artist, which serves a dual purpose of being a conversation starter and a way to support the community in which the shop resides.

A simple, yet effective, way of establishing a good first impression is by appealing to all types of customers. Having relevant, current reading material for both men and women, 1,000-piece puzzles and cable TV shows that the shop takes its customer experience seriously and has put thought into its amenities.

3. Have a clutter-free front desk.

Babcock says that less is more when it comes to organizing your shop’s front desk.   

“Simple, clutter-free workstations allow for the focus to be on the customer as they relay their vehicle concerns to our team without unnecessary distractions,” Babcock says. “If we do display something, we make sure it looks nice and is pertinent to our customers.”

4. Kids are welcome, too.

As a busy mom of four, Babcock knows what it’s like to take little ones on errands. It means a lot to parents when they see a business has a dedicated space for children, which is why she created a children’s play area at the shop. Creating such an area is a way to provide peace of mind for parents, but going above and beyond and making sure the area is clean, doesn’t have broken toys, and appeals to a variety of children’s ages again communicates that there was thought put into the area and isn’t filled with hand-me-downs.

5. Offer a warm beverage for guests.

Babcock designed an extensive coffee area that she makes sure is always clean, stocked and fresh with a variety of options.

“There is just something wonderfully welcoming about enjoying a cup of coffee (or tea or cocoa) in a ceramic mug—it feels like home,” Babcock says.

Those types of little touches—a ceramic mug instead of styrofoam cups, or fresh-brewed coffee instead of from a vending machine—are meant to delight and stand out to customers.

6. Offer something for everyone.

There is no universal type of customer, which is why creating different areas within the shop to appeal to different customer needs is an easy way to avoid turning a customer off. If a customer does not want to be near children or prefers to read over watching TV, for example, having a separate area with high-top tables and chairs where he or she can work means the customer has an area that fits the experience he or she is looking for, rather than becoming disgruntled.

7. Maintain a clean restroom.

Babcock says she designed the restroom to be aesthetically pleasing to customers, and makes sure her staff checks on it often to ensure its cleanliness. If customers are turned off by your restroom, she says, they’ll have a negative impression of your overall business.

“There is nothing more disgusting and unwelcoming than going into a dirty and or smelly public restroom,” Babcock says. “We believe a restroom, just like any other area of a facility, can be welcoming.”

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