Customer Experience & the Power of First Impressions

You probably don’t have to think very hard to recall the last time you received bad customer service. Was it the first time you tried to interact with that company? Did you ever buy anything else from them, ever again?

As we all know, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And while experts disagree on the exact timing of how long it takes someone to form that first opinion, it’s never very long. First impressions are generally formed in about 7 to 30 seconds. One study by Princeton psychologists found a first impression can be made in as little as a tenth of a second.

Much like meeting a person for the first time, our first interaction with a brand is critical.

The Impact of Poor Customer Service
Nothing underscores this point better than a recent study showing that 82% of U.S. consumers stopped doing business with a company due to a poor customer service experience.

Because of this, the customer experience – starting from the first encounter – should be a priority for every business. Brands that are slow to recognize this often find their customers are quick to turn to competitors. As Walmart scion Sam Walton once said, “If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.”

Perception is More Important Than Reality
Another key element in first impressions and the customer experience is the customer’s perception of the encounter, which can be the basis for the lasting impression they take away with them.

According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, 70% of buying experiences are based on how a customer feels they are being treated.

For example, if customers feel they’ve been on hold too long – regardless of their actual wait time – their lasting impression of the interaction will be poor. Conversely, a customer who feels the customer service agent went above and beyond will be left with a positive perception – and will be more likely to repeat their business.

Word of Mouth: Nothing Gets Us Talking Like a Bad Experience
For whatever reason, unsatisfied customers are more inclined to share their customer service experiences. It’s human nature. First-time interactions are especially vulnerable to this, as customers have not yet built up any loyalty to the brand. They are still gathering the information they’ll use to form their opinion about it.

In today’s digital age, it’s easier than ever for disgruntled customers to quickly broadcast their discontent, rapidly compounding the damage to a brand’s reputation.

Superior Quality Means Being ‘Full-Circle’
Peter Drucker said it best when he said, “Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.”

During my 25 years in the Quality Monitoring business, I have operated on the Peter Drucker premise that quality needs to focus on the customer and your business needs to embody a commitment to “Superior Quality.” Over the last two and a half decades, CSR has seen customer service brought to the forefront time and time again:

  • In the 1990s, it was said that in a look-alike landscape, quality service would be the differentiator.
  • In the 2000s, the focus was on creating customer-centric organizations.
  • In 2010, buzz about improving the customer experience boiled down to building loyalty by giving the customer what they want.

Today, Customer Engagement contains all the previous mantras, with one major difference: authenticity. These are now sincere goals being instituted and carried out. This is what it means to be full-circle.

With so many more options available to consumers, today’s customers are more savvy, demanding, and impatient than ever. They want their service to be faster and require less effort. This is why we are full circle, and why we urge you to adopt this philosophy as well – for the good of your customers and, ultimately, your business.