You’ve Only Got One Shot at a First Impression

Miad
I had an interesting personal experience over the past two days as I and my family made our first college campus visits with my teenage daughter (eek! I can already feel the money being sucked from my bank account!). She is interested in Art and Design schools, so we visited two different campuses over the past two days.

At one of the schools, my family was given a tour by a very nice young lady – but we all agreed that it was a terrible experience that soured us on the school. The tour guide was a freshman at the school (in her first semester) and it appeared that she had just gotten out of bed and thrown on a pair of old jeans and a ratty sweatshirt. She had a very sheepish voice and we couldn’t hear about 90 percent of what she said. When I could hear her, the conversation was so laced with the words "um", "like" and "insane" that I felt we needed a translator. Being a freshman, she knew very little about the various programs and most questions were answered with, "Well, I’m not really sure…".

As we pulled away from the school, we all agreed that any one of us could have spent 15 minutes with the college’s catalog and given a better tour than the one we received.

The thing is, this school is training their students – along with the arts – in the disciplines of business advertising and marketing. They should know that the first impression they create with prospective students and parents will have a huge impact on the "purchase decision" – and a college education at this school is easily a six-figure purchase decision.

I’m always saying that companies can typically differentiate themselves from the competition on one of three things: product, price or service. This school seems to have a good product (based on what I saw students producing), their tuition is in line with similar schools, so the only way to differentiate themselves from other art and design schools is the relationship they can build with us and the quality of their service when we call or visit. They had one shot to make a first impression – and they failed miserably.

You’ve got a great product. Wonderful.
Your product is offered at a fair and reasonable price-point. Super.

Now, what are you going to do to earn a customer’s business, differentiate yourself from the competition, and build/retain a loyal customer relationship?

How’s your "serve"?

Related Posts:
Lower Prices Isn’t Always What Customer’s Want
It Only Takes One Experience to Make a Customer for Life
Customer Service Lesson in My Hospital Room

  5 comments for “You’ve Only Got One Shot at a First Impression

  1. December 13, 2006 at 9:49 pm

    Making Good Impressions on Customers

    When you meet customers for the first time, dont you want to come across as confident and approachable? Easy to do business with? However, lets not forget that looking good is one thing – offering phenomenal service is somethi…

  2. December 14, 2006 at 6:48 am

    Tom, You are so right about the first impressions. When I arrived at my Navy squadron I had to speak in front of the officers and the first word out of my mouth was, “Um..”
    It took several minutes for the heckling to stop so I could actually get started talking. I was harassed about that for months! 🙂

  3. December 14, 2006 at 8:16 am

    I can only imagine the heckling and ribbing you’d get from a bunch of sailors! Glad it was you and not me. Thanks for commenting, Chris.

  4. December 16, 2006 at 11:43 am

    Great post – as always Tom, and here’s my challenge. The better campus deserves your daughter’s acumen, and she deserves the better campus. I happen to know they make space for gifted students …. The challenge? take the head of finances to lunch and chat about how the campus can support the talent of your daughter in the package they offer her…. Such a communication – from the maestro — will also help other gifted students to find the space they deserve, because they are supported to be there. It’s how we grow the best communities you often describe. Dare to take me up on the challenge?

  5. December 18, 2006 at 1:14 pm

    You are absolutely right on about first impressions. I remember vividly one of the campus tour weekends that my parents & I went on… one of the campuses that we visited was decked out for a stamp unveiling, complete with balloons and pomp and circumstance. Contrast that with the college on the other side of town (that I actually ended up going to) where the chairs were still sitting atop the tables from summer cleaning/storage activities, and there were no welcoming committees or balloons… just a warm-hearted student tour guide, and a great program. It took a lot of convincing of my parents, though, who had trouble looking past the first impression of the campus. 🙂

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