You only have one chance for a great first impression

IMG_5028Making a really poor first impression with your customer is almost a guarantee that you can wave goodbye to business in the future, and sadly there are days when the best laid plans of employees and their well rehearsed skills go awry. The question is can a business deal with it so they don’t lose a customer, and how does a business make amends? Here is how one company handled their blunder.

Last week my Mercedes had been making a strange noise – the kind of noise one just can’t turn the radio up louder to ignore; I thought it might be serious. I arrived at the dealership in North Palm Beach and was promptly greeted and led into a waiting area. I waited and waited – lots of  employees going back and forth and in and out, but no one stopped to speak with me. When I saw the original “meet and greet” employee I told him no one had helped me yet, and I was becoming impatient. He told me that everyone was very busy and to continue to wait.

And now in the century of the I phone and with no patience for poor customer service, I called another  Mercedes dealership and asked if I could bring my car in for a diagnosis of its problem. The receptionist Stacy asked me where I lived and told me I could bring my car to them, but the dealership in my area was much closer. I told her that was where I was calling from, and how I had been told to wait in a wide-open lobby and no one had yet to even wave to me. I told her my name, and she promised to get back to me in a few minutes.

And that is exactly what Stacy did. Not only did she remember my name, she called me right back and said a representative would be with me shortly. After that, the service was exemplary – and not only was my car repaired, I was given a Mercedes loaner, and from that moment on my customer service needs were handled as if my father owned the company.

Customers remember good service and good products, but it’s that first point of contact where someone is welcoming and friendly and promptly attends to their clients that define a reputation and future business. That first impression doesn’t just happen by luck or chance, so preparing all the participants with their own customized training skills may require more than letting one of the other employees show someone “around.” In order for employees to be on the top of their job, managers need to provide training courses with “how to” manage different situations, read body language, step out of their “box” to take extra steps to help someone, and learn how to effectively manage unhappy people and difficult situations.

The next day when I returned the loaner car and was ready to pick up my own car, the welcoming staff could not have been more helpful, friendly and engaging. I forgive you Mercedes-Benz – you handled the problem well.

photo credit: CLF

6 Responses to “You only have one chance for a great first impression”

  1. Elaine Fogel said:

    Jan 11, 12 at 1:36 am

    Good story, Cheryl. The first example demonstrates disappointing service from a luxury brand – not what a brand like Mercedes should impart. Your second example was similar to mine during my first visit to a local Audi dealer. Consumers expect more from high ticket items, and rightly so.

  2. dumasderauly said:

    Jan 11, 12 at 7:30 pm

    Hi Cheryl,
    You’ve nailed it, the first impression is THE most important thing in the short term for any customer relations. This reminds me of an article written by Maz Iqbal on the Customer Blog: http://fat.gy/3t about Integrity (Want a breakthrough in customer-centricity in 2012? Start with ‘Integrity’). The fact that Stacy called you back and even remembered your name is an integral part of the first impression, she said she’d call you back and she did.

    Unfortunately, I’ve been seeing more and more people (and thus companies) that says they will call back or send you something asap and that don’t do it until you remind them.

    Anyways, I4m happy at least some people keep their word and understand that when they say they’ll do something, they’re actually expected to do so 😉

    Happy New Year to you 🙂
    Kind Regards,
    Arnaud

  3. Joe McFadden said:

    Jan 12, 12 at 2:58 pm

    “managers need to provide training courses with “how to” manage different situations”

    Training is so important. There are going to be times when a customer service rep can’t just read the script and have the customer be happy. They need to know how to act on the fly and deliver great service no matter what. That only comes with training.

  4. Cheryl said:

    Jan 12, 12 at 3:39 pm

    Interesting blog. Thank you for your kind comments.

  5. Cheryl said:

    Jan 12, 12 at 3:43 pm

    Thank you Elaine, and I agree that paying a premium for a product should absolutely be reflected in service. That’s why a lot of people choose to spend the extra money each year for an American Express Platinum Card or any of the other premium credit cards. I do believe however that every customer should expect and receive great customer service.

  6. Clark said:

    Jan 14, 12 at 4:52 pm

    I am not happy with the service that I have received from Mercedes-Benz on our 2011 E350 4Matic Wagon. The stereo speakers have been crackling and cutting out for 8 months, the car has been in for service 6 times on the same issues, I provided them with video narrating the problem, I dropped off the car with them on Tuesday and signed a waiver to allow them to drive it as much as they wanted. They wanted to define a mileage limit so I suggested 500 miles if that is what it would take for them to “duplicate” the problem because this has been ongoing for 8 months and 6 service visits, but they put down 100 miles for the 4 days they would have the care. Today (Saturday) I received the car back with the following printed on the invoice “14108 COULD NOT DUPLICATE CLIENT CONCERN – SEE HIST – HAS BEEN IN FOR THIS PROBLEM BEFORE”. Great! What I am supposed to do? Buy a new stereo for a Mercedes that I bought new, pay to have it rewired because they won’t do it, or what? The warranty is useless for this issue and no amount of talking and follow up has resulted in any resolution. I have now put our documentation videos on YouTube in desperation to hopefully get Mercedes to do something about fixing our car. HELP! What should I do next?