Last impressions last

May 9, 2014 

"Everything that we experience every day leaves a long-lasting impression." ~ Pharrell Williams

Many businesses go out of their way to make sure their first impressions are great but forget how important last impressions are. Last impressions are how customers decide if they will continue doing business with you, so I think last impressions are more important than first impressions in many ways.

Some of the worst offenders with last impressions are lawyers and physicians. With lawyers, for example, most people say the same thing when asked what their last impression was: "the bill!"

I know when I got a divorce, my last impression of my lawyer was the final bill. Basically, he ended our relationship by putting me in a painful position. My lawyer was very good, and obviously, I needed to pay the bill, but I think lawyers need to come up with a better, softer way of concluding their relationships. The way they currently do it, all their customers remember is how much they had to pay.

One idea is sending a hand-written note saying how much they appreciated the opportunity to serve me. If I have just spent $10,000 to $20,000 on a lawyer, a simple thank you note is not unreasonable.

Physicians also need some help with their last impressions. Typically, the last thing patients hear from their doctors is that the nurse will be in with their prescriptions and forms. A warm smile and a "Thank you for coming in to see me today," would be so much better.

Additionally, when I had a new air conditioner installed recently, my last impression was the salesman showing up and wanting payment. Again, I completely understand the business requiring payment, but this salesman had a frown on his face and just radiated unhappiness.

I know this salesman's mood had nothing to do with me, but it created a negative feeling that left me unsure if I wanted to do business with this company again.

All too often, companies leave it up to employees with the least amount of customer service training to create the last impression. This is especially true in firms where salesmen secure the business on the front end, and a delivery person makes the final impression. More often than not, delivery people are not customer oriented.

For all these reasons, it is critical you understand what impression your customers are walking away with and which employees are making them. Oftentimes, management is surprised to find out who the purveyors of their last impressions are. Simply ask yourself which employees are the last to interact with your customers and what is the nature of that interaction.

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