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Guest Blog: Red Carpet Customer Service – How Business are Making Amazing First and Last Impressions

This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post, my colleague Donna Cutting writes about the crucial first and last impressions businesses make on their customers. People say the first impression is important. I would say that equally important is the last impression. The last impression is a lasting impression! – Shep Hyken As the […]

This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post, my colleague Donna Cutting writes about the crucial first and last impressions businesses make on their customers. People say the first impression is important. I would say that equally important is the last impression. The last impression is a lasting impression! – Shep Hyken

As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Traditional wisdom holds that people form their first impression of you within seven seconds. A newer study done by the University of Glasgow in March 2014, states that it takes half a second for people to make up their minds about you. In other words, you literally can have them – or not – at “Hello.”

Business owners and customer service professionals know that the first impression is oh-so-critical. At the same time, the last impression you make may be the one that sticks with your customer the most. The recency effect describes the fact that when asked to recall specific items on a list, people are more likely to remember those that came at the end of the list. In other words, you can make a smashing first impression and blow it all up with a poor last impression.

Or you can roll out the red carpet, and keep it out. Your customers will run out and tell everyone they know!

Six ways professionals make red-carpet first and last impressions that keep their customers (in the words of Shep Hyken) AMAZED!

Red Carpet First Impressions

Begin the Welcome BEFORE they Arrive: When you book your seats at Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham, North Carolina, you’ll note that the exceptional service begins before you even head out for the show. They’ll send you email updates with everything you need to know including where to park, where to eat, and even what time to leave the house based on expected traffic that day. You can even pre-order your drink so it’s available to you at intermission. When you finally do arrive, you’ll be welcomed by a smiling man or woman (or both) in red jackets and top hats! The DPAC Showstoppers are on hand to greet you and even dance for you as you enter the lobby. As you make your way to your seats, uniformed ushers are all along the way greeting you with smiles and helpful guidance. Each person there truly seems glad to see you. Says Michael Colvin, director of event services, “The key to providing this level of customer service is to hire the right people and train them. I have interviewed 100 people sometimes and only hired 30. It’s a long process, but it’s worth it!”

Roll Out the Red Carpet…Literally: Talent Plus, Inc is a consulting firm that focuses on talent-based assessments for employee selection and development. If you’re a client visiting their Lincoln, Nebraska offices, or a new associate starting your first day, don’t be surprised if they literally roll out the red carpet for you! Guests and new hires are often surprised to find the entire team lined up on either side of a long red carpet applauding as they enter the building.

High Point University, in High Point, North Carolina provides a similar WOW moment by providing a special parking space for expected guests complete with a personalized welcome sign. It’s not unusual for astonished visitors to stand near their sign as their friends snap a photo!

Stand on Your Tiptoes: When it comes to telephone first impressions, the team at Spa Theology in Asheville, North Carolina knows that having an upbeat tone of voice is critical. They’ve been taught to stand on their toes (yes, really) because their voice naturally heightens. They also make a point to never rush someone off the phone. They focus all of their energy on letting every single customer know that this time is their time.

Once you have them at hello, you want to keep them at goodbye. Be sure to keep the red carpet out and make a first-class last impression as well.

Red Carpet Last Impressions

Capture the Memory: When Mark Savoree owned a Lincoln Ford Mercury dealership in Paris, Illinois they took Polaroid pictures of people standing next to their new car. Says Mark, “We’d take two, and write their name and the date on the bottom tag. One would go home with them, and one would go on our corkboard because we were welcoming them to the family. Today, Mark and his wife are the owners of Savoree Properties, and they take photos of people with their new homes (this time with a digital camera.) They present them, in frames, as a gift and, says Mark, “people love it!”

Don’t Forget the Dogs: Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, knows that one of the ways to tap into a customer’s soul is through their pets. The new company, deemed UBER for lawn care, allows you to hire someone to mow your grass via an app on your smartphone. They currently serve Nashville, Atlanta, Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida. If you’re a customer and you have pets, your dog or cat will receive a follow-up thank you note, addressed to them, with a bone or a bit of catnip as a gift. With shipping it costs the company about $2.00 per customer and has earned them repeat business and lots of social media love.

Check-In After the Sale: Darlene Clay Elia, owner of, teaches clients to do a “Happy Check” after a service call. Says Darlene, “The Happy Check or Happy Call ensures they have given the highest level of service possible. They call with a series of questions to determine the customer’s level of satisfaction. Even the call itself is an example of exceeding the customer’s expectations.”

Ask yourself, what opportunities do we have at our organization to make a better first impression? How could we make a fantastic last impression? Every company is different, but take a tip from the people and places above. Create first and last impressions that turn prospects into customers and customers into raving fans!

Donna Cutting is the author of 2 books on red-carpet customer service, and the founder & CEO of Red Carpet Learning Systems, an Asheville, NC-based firm focused on helping leaders engage their team to improve the customer experience. Parts of this article are excerpted from her new book, “501 Ways to Roll Out the Red-Carpet for Your Customers: Easy-to-Implement Ideas to Inspire Loyalty, Get New Customers, and Leave a Lasting Impression.”

For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to Read Shep’s latest Forbes Article:

Nordstrom Makes You A Shoe Designer: A Customized Experience Can Be A Better Customer Experience

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