The Power of First Impressions

"You never get a second chance to make a great first impression."
- Will Rogers

Two days ago, for insurance reasons, I went to a new dentist office. I had a 9:30 a.m. appointment but was told to arrive 15 minutes early to fill out a medical history. I arrived early and filled out the paperwork. Then I began to wait. There was one other person in the waiting room and he was called back around 9:30.

Now I was the only one in the waiting room. I waited 15 more minutes and hadn't heard a word from the people sitting behind the desk 15 feet away from me. I set my watch alarm for 10 a.m. and decided that if I didn't hear from anyone by then, I would leave.

10 a.m. came and no one said a word to me.

    Not "We will be with you in a few minutes."
    Not "We really apologize for the delay."

I went to the front desk and respectfully told them that I was canceling my appointment and why.

It could have been a great dentistry practice. My experience could have been the exception rather than the rule. It didn't matter to me. This was my singular experience.

This is the power of first impressions.

First impressions are like wet cement. You only have a small window of opportunity to make an impression. Once that impression is made, it is difficult to change.

In addition, research indicates that we make an unconscious judgment about a person when we first meet them within the first 7 seconds.

Here are 3 simple ways that you can make a great first impression. (I feel like I am giving you a blinding flash of the obvious, but these behaviors are not necessarily practiced.)

1. Be cheerful and welcoming. Smile. Act like you are happy to meet the person.

“I look for someone who produces a positive emotional effect
the minute they walk in the room.”
-Ken Blanchard,
CEO, The Ken Blanchard Companies

When I teach customer service for physician practices, I encourage front office staff to give new patients a special greeting like:

    "Welcome to our practice."  and/or
    "We are happy to have you as a patient."

Those few words make a big difference.

2. Be others-oriented. Spend less time trying to make an impression and more time being impressed by others. Take an interest in the other person. Ask them about themselves.

Here is a simple life principle: we like people who like us.

3. Maintain a neat, clean appearance.

Whether we like it or not, people do judge a book by its cover.

Realtors talk about the importance of 'curb appeal.' If the house doesn't look presentable from the outside, buyers usually don't want to take a look inside.

I recently heard a young entrepreneur speak. He said when he calls on customers, even CEOs, he wears a baseball cap, backwards. He explained that he has to be himself and that's his style. That's very naive.

Dressing inappropriately or neglecting your appearance suggests that you are socially unaware or careless.

Psychologists say that first impressions have a 'primacy effect.' In other words, first impressions are more impactful and longer lasting than subsequent impressions.

Have you given thought to the first impression you make?

Those who win in the marketplace understand the unique power of first impressions.

“The first impression will either open the door or close it.
It’s that important.”
- Betsy Johnson



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