customer service

First impressions

Imagine you have 60 seconds to advise a business on how to improve its brand and reputation.  What would you say?

It is never that simple of course. There is no magic bullet solution but there is one piece of advice that I think could make a world of difference to many companies: Think about first impressions.

Number one on my list would be to make sure that the person who answers the phone or greets your clients or customers for the first time is right for the job.

I phoned a large advertising agency recently on behalf of a client with a reasonable budget to spend.  I asked to speak to the Managing Director.  The manner and tone of the young woman who answered the phone was deplorable.  This wasn’t a conversation, it was an interrogation!  Why did I want to speak to him? She sounded impatient, especially when I asked to leave not only my office number but also my mobile number!  I got off the phone feeling angry, resentful and quite frankly p****d off. 

Did this young woman’s employer have any idea how much damage she was doing to their brand and reputation – let alone their sales and retention of existing clients? 

First impressions often become lasting impressions.  Just read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink: The fact is, people form opinions of you in the first 10 seconds.  How you look, how you speak, your manner and tone of voice.  If you run a business, have you listened in to the way your receptionist answers the phone lately? Forget analysing the monthly account - this could be the first step to solving your number one business problem.

Harvey Norman discovers branding

I couldn’t believe my eyes – in fact, I nearly fell off the couch.

Watching the footy on the weekend, there it was: A Harvey Norman “brand” commercial.

Big deal?  Well, actually yes.  It signifies a HUGE change in the national retailer’s marketing approach, which in the past has been grounded in graphic-heavy ads flogging TVs and fridges at unbelievably low prices!

Oh yes, and 500 year interest free terms.  Okay, not quite that long – but what started out as a 12 month deal has spun out so quickly that Mum and Dad will buy the TV and the kids won’t start paying interest until they reach middle age.

Wow, and it took the internet to do all this?  Yep, up until now Harvey Norman has relied on attracting buyers purely on price.  The rise of internet retail sites means that ain’t so special any more.

And guess what, now we have to find another reason to visit Harvey Norman.  The answer? Service.  So the brand ads show sales folk talking about their passion for selling TVs and computers any just about anything else that plugs into a power outlet.  Sooner or later everyone in a crowded market has to think about their brand difference. Even if you’re Harvey Norman, price only gets you so far.  But don’t wait – offer ends soon!