Let’s get straight to the point and check some numbers.
When it comes to customers’ first impressions about you, your staff and business, every second matters.
During the first 5 seconds, the customers have an instant visual impression of the person they meet for the first time.
During the first 30 seconds, the customers start stereotyping the person they meet for the first time.
During the first 90 seconds, the customers form 90% of the impression they will have for the person they meet for the first time.
It sounds mad, but that’s how the human nature operates. And you need to know these numbers and how important are the first 90 seconds when a new customer is using your business or an existing customer is interacting with a new member of your staff.
7-38-55 rule for first impressions
A version of the 7-38-55 rule of communication applies with the first impressions as well. Let’s see how.
7% of their first impression is based on the choice of words you use in the conversation you have with them.
38% of their first impression is based on the tone of voice you use to express the words you chose. This includes the volume, pitch and speed of your speech, the use of pauses and accent.
55% of their first impression is based on your image, the way you look. This consists of two main factors; the body language you use and your professional image based on your appearance.
These include your posture, gestures you make, eye contact and facial expressions, way of walking, your clothes and uniform, and finally your personal hygiene.
Make your professional image perfect
As already described above, your professional image plays a major part in the first impressions your customers will have for you and your organisation.
But your professional image does not only affect your new customers. It affects every person who interacts with you or any other member of your business.
You should not only focus on your current customers at each time, but for everyone who contacts your business at any point for any reason.
A good example can be your suppliers. They get in touch with you regarding your orders and any queries, and enter your business to deliver your orders, sometimes on a daily basis.
You must retain and present a highly professional image at any point, you or any other member of your organisation has any kind of interaction with them.
The reason is very simple; they are your potential customers and that’s how you should treat them. They are the ones who will advertise and promote your business to their people and connections, and believe me, their word counts.
Think of yourself: when you someone who works for a specific supplier shares a word with you “confidentially” about some negative things they saw in a restaurant regarding the chefs’ personal hygiene and very dirty uniforms, believe me, it will affect you. Negatively.
Professional image and staff
You need to keep the professional image standards of your staff high at all times with no excuses. The way to achieve this is by setting some rules and then monitoring them closely on a daily basis.
The rules you need to set should be based on the uniform and personal hygiene policy of your business. The uniform policy applies to the staff presentation standards and includes their clothes (regardless if you use branded uniforms or not) and shoes.
The personal hygiene regulations should cover things like body odour, shower before shifts and use of deodorant, hand washing, use of jewellery and watches, makeup and hair, fake nails and nail colour, etc.
When you have set the rules that apply best to the type of your business and image as a brand and you have explained your expectations in detail to all your staff, then you need to start the monitoring process.
Firstly, you need to be the role model, it’s impossible to achieve the standards you are aiming for, if you don’t follow them yourself. Then you need to ensure that all your members of staff have understood them and they realise the importance of keeping these standards high at all times with everyone.
When this is completed, you need to ensure that these professional image standards are met by monitoring and checking your staff on a daily basis and several times during the day.
A great opportunity to do this is when the briefing with each member of staff is taking place. At this point you can check their presentation standards and give them feedback if necessary.
You need to be strict on your approach on this matter.
For example, don’t hesitate to speak to one of your staff regarding a bad body odour they have because you feel that they will be emotionally hurt.
At this point you need to remember that you need to protect your business image and reputation. But you also need to protect this specific member of staff from becoming a hot conversation behind his or her back by the rest of the team.
If you use the right approach in such a delicate and embarrassing matter, you will only do good.
I personally had to go through this painful process a number of times, but I only managed positive outcomes for everyone, because I used the right approach.