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You never get a second chance to make a first impression

I like to joke that my wife needs to introduce me twice to people. The first time to let people know who I am, the second time to apologize for my behavior.

You don’t get a second chance for a first impression. Always do your best to make your first impression positive and memorable. Your first impression is either going to be an easy standard to live up or it’s going to be an uphill battle to recover from.

Here are some tips and strategies to improve your first impression

1. Always smile

Smiling is contagious. Have you ever walked down the street and somebody looked back and smiled at you and said “good day”? It’s impossible not to smile back. Even if you’re in a bad mood it’s impossible not to smile back and say good day too. Make sure you smile when people come in and you greet them. If you smile when you answer the phone your customers will hear the smile in your voice.

2. Greet all customers as soon as they walk in

There’s nothing worse than walking in somewhere and having employees walk past you. It happens to me in department stores and hotels, where staff walk right past me without saying hi. I may have something to ask, but if their head is down like they don’t want to talk to me I won’t ask the question.

If you’re already having a conversation with a customer, you can politely ask them to wait a second. Then greet the new customer who walked in. “Hi, thank you for coming into Joe’s Garage. Someone will help you in a moment.”
When customers wait for a long time without anyone talking to them, they’ll either lose patience and leave or come to the counter with a bad mood. You’ll have to be the one to deal with that bad mood and recover from that.

3. Introduce yourself by name

I also suggest having a name tag. When someone comes in they right away feel a connection by knowing your name. They know how to address you and they’ll remember your name if they need your help later on.

4. Say your customer’s name

People love hearing their own name. If you use the customer’s name, it also lends authority to what you’re saying to that person. It’ll also help you remember their name for next time.

I remember going to a dentist and it was my first visit. I walked through the door and the receptionist looked up from her computer and said

“Hi, Mike. Glad to see you come in today. Someone will be here in a few minutes, please go wait in the waiting room.”

I’ve never been to this dentist before. I called and made an appointment, but when I walked in as soon as she saw me she said my name. I felt at home. I felt like these people knew me.

I was curious though. Being a new customer, how did she know who I was? So afterward I asked how she knew who I was. First, she knew my appointment was for 2 o’clock and it was 1:50 when I came in. Second, they googled me and found pictures of me from Facebook and LinkedIn. They saved my picture in their management system so when I came in they knew who I was. This little bit of homework left for an amazing first impression!

5. Make sure your shop is neat, clean, and organized

If your waiting room is a mess with piles of paper around your computer, how do you think I feel about you taking care of my vehicle? It’s very important to have things clean. Maybe your shop has a rustic, country look, or an Apple look with a lot of clean white space. No matter the decor, having the shop be clean is very important. It can always look clean and organized. This is especially important with regard to the bathroom. If your sink is thirty years old it might be time for a new sink. If your toilet has stains on it that can’t be removed it might be time to get a new toilet. You might think it’s unimportant, that it’s just a bathroom. But when it comes to your lady customers, this is huge. You want them to be blown away by how clean and nice that bathroom is. It will make them feel comfortable and it will help create that positive first impression.

6. Be a listener

I know as a customer that I am not as educated in vehicles as you are. I’ve worked hard to get my YouTube degree in automotive repair, but it’s nothing like the knowledge you have, lol.

Never underestimate what the customers know. Don’t undervalue what they’re trying to tell you. Don’t cut me off in the middle of my sentence even though you know the answer. Let the customer say their piece. Your customer will feel listened to if you let them speak. If you cut them off and give them the answers, they’ll feel like you only care about what you have to say. To be a great listener you should ask a lot of questions. By asking questions you are letting me know that you care about what I have to say. And when you tell me something, I’ll be all ears. I will give you my undivided attention because you showed me that you would listen to what I have to say.

7. Dress to impress

People have a lot of different opinions about this topic. I recommend dressing one step higher than your ideal customer. Think about what your ideal customer would wear, and dress it up one notch.

You wouldn’t wear a three-piece tuxedo in a shop, right?

I remember back 15 years ago when I was looking to buy my first house. The realtor showed up in a three-piece suit, slicked-back hair, an expensive watch, and a brand new BMW.

I felt intimidated, like this house I was looking at wasn’t good enough. This is not the type of house this realtor would live in, is it? Most realtors way overdress for the houses they are selling. I ended up using a realtor that wore a good quality golf shirt and slacks and drove a nice new SUV. I felt I had way more in common with him because I didn’t think he was “above my status”.

8. Have matching, clean uniforms in the shop and wear name tags.

Having name tags is makes you more memorable. The customer doesn’t have to question who they’re talking with. Wear uniforms that are a step above what your ideal customer wears.

If you serve young families who drive five to ten-year-old domestic vehicles, you might dress very casual. If you’re serving executives that drive luxury vehicles less than five years old, dress in a way that they will notice.

9. My “against the grain” advise.

There are a lot of people who are still old school. They have a list of hard no’s: don’t show your tattoos, be clean-shaven, no piercings, no extreme hairdos. That won’t cut it today. You need to think about who your ideal client is and what works for them.

If your ideal clients live in expensive houses, drive the newest luxury cars, and are more reserved, then you may want to follow that list.

I personally think you’re far better off showing more of your unique personality. This beard makes me instantly recognizable. There’s an advantage to being recognizable and memorable.

Think about what your ideal client thinks about tattoos, piercings, and facial hair. Ask these questions and find out. From there, you can base what’s right for your shop from the answers to these questions.