I'm a big believer in the idea that it's more than just first impressions that count. Of course first impressions are vital, especially in business, but to maintain that business, second, third and fourth impressions must also count as well.
I went for lunch at my 'new' usual pub last week, having only eaten there a few times before, and asked for what I had ordered on my previous visit.
My first impression of the sandwich I'd had (prawn, avocado and tomato) was fantastic, so I not only returned to the pub but reordered the same meal based on my first impression.
However, second time round, the build quality of my sandwich was not up to scratch. The value-add (extra prawns) had been taken away and the spec (no tomatoes) wasn't what I'd ordered. Will I go back to that pub and order the same thing again? I doubt it.
It's the same with most business; even if the impression that the customer gets the first time is one of excellence, if the second impression isn't good, it is unlikely that customer will come back.
It's not gaining new customers that make businesses great, it is managing to retain the same customers year after year.
Providing a great first impression will ensure that the customer has a level of expectation and, if this level is not met second time round, maintaining that customer and aiming to rebuild that damaged impression will invariably be more difficult.
Even though the peripherals that accompanied my sandwich were excellent (side orders, drinks and so on) I was unwilling to compromise on my lunch; I had expectations that weren't met. So I complained and duly received a fresh sandwich. But the damage was done.
Unlike me, many customers are willing to compromise. The technical spec they ordered may not be quite right, but if the peripherals, applications, service and customer care are good they won't complain.
But they are compromising on their own level of expectation and are left with a tarnished impression of their supplier.
The key to retaining customers year after year is managing all customer expectations and realising that every impression counts.
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