First (& Second) Impressions

An Airline CEO has physical and human assets employed to attract and keep customers

Captive Customers

As the leader of your business, you’re concerned about first impressions.  You want to put your best foot forward in early encounters with any new or returning customer.  So you’re concerned about those early touches – your website; how your staff answers the phone; how your automated answering system represents your company; and how your sales people present themselves in that first customer meeting.

Not all CEOs put proper emphasis on this best practice.  Not long ago I was on a 3-hour airline flight that drove this point home.  I was traveling with a major airline which had produced a one-minute video of the CEO explaining the vision and values of this newly merged airline.  It was the first video clip shown as we pushed back from the gate, even prior to the safety information video.  It thus had been positioned to provide impact.  The passengers were all strapped in and expecting the safety video but were shown something different and intentionally more interesting.

The problem was that the video was blurred and scrolling.  After a few seconds, it was stopped and started again.  Same result.  Another restart provided the same result, except it was no longer blurred – just scrolling.  So they let it roll.  I still tried to hear the message from the CEO which, I believe, was pretty well scripted and delivered.  The problem was that the video was so annoying I had to work extremely hard to garner anything of value.  I had a business purpose (my blog) for listening hard, but I’m sure 90% of the passengers had tuned it out after the first aborted start.

What a waste for the airline!  They invested significant time and money in producing a powerful message from the CEO.  Instead of a creating a positive impact, it was a joke.

The moral?  It’s imperative that your early contacts with your public represent your best effort.  This includes a professional and informative website; an inviting telephone etiquette; impressive physical presence by all company leaders and sales people; well-rehearsed first messages; and technology that works flawlessly in polishing your brand.

First, second, and third impressions last.  Prepare for those events in a way that creates applause, not laughter, for your organization.

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