From the Desk of Lynn Woolf: July 16, 2013

It takes just seconds to make the right first impression and let’s say you nail it. Your customers feel welcome and your dealership lot, showroom and team are firing on all cylinders. The problem is that only takes you as far as the first 5 seconds in the sales process. What about the last 5 seconds of interacting with a customer, that last impression, and everything in between?

Here’s my experience from this past weekend at a big box store — a mostly good experience, actually. We went in to get some supplies for a house repair project. Here’s what stands out:

1. We were greeted at the door and asked if we needed help.

2. The store was loaded with employees. Every one we worked with was cheerful, knowledgeable and helpful. If they didn’t know the answer, they called somebody who did.

3. We found what we wanted for most supplies. For others, we found good alternatives.

Here’s what went wrong and it was the very last impression with the store. We had finished paying and were headed outside to load up some supplies. I commented to the employee who was helping us about the number of employees on hand. It was supposed to be a compliment, but the employee took it as her opening to complain that there should have been the same number of employees a day earlier, when they were extra busy.

In this case, the store had built up enough good “customer karma,” but that 1-minute conversation could have negated the entire good experience of our visit. I could certainly sympathize with the employee, but you never want to leave a customer on a negative. Luckily for her and the store, all the other employees I had interacted with more than balanced out her gripe.

You as the owner or manager can’t be everywhere and even the best employees can say or do the wrong things. Just make sure that you’ve taken steps to build up your own good customer karma. Focus on hiring the right people, providing the best training and support, and work to keep your team motivated and happy. (Check out our “Best Practices” series for strategies.)

And, maybe take the time to personally make a great last impression with a “good-bye, thank you, and call us if you need something” when a customer is paying or loading equipment — and even if they leave empty-handed. That last 5 seconds gives you a head start for the next time the customer visits your dealership.

Lynn Woolf,
Managing Editor
Rural Lifestyle Dealer