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The Importance of First Impressions: Four Tips for Making the First Customer Interaction a Positive One
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Bad interactions with a representative of a company can permanently influence the way in which customers view that company. If a customer calls company XYZ, for instance, and the individual who answers the phone is rude, curt, and aggressive, from that point on the customer will forever have a negative view of that company, a view that he or she will then undoubtedly share with everyone around him or her.

To ensure that customers have positive interactions with your company and that they talk about the company for its positive (not negative) attributes, consider the following tips.

Tip 1: Stick to the Basics — When your company's receptionist, customer service representative, salesperson, etc. answers the phone, make sure that that person provides the caller with all the necessary information and nothing more. There is a specific reason for which the customer is calling, so let him or her tell you what it is instead of attempting to inundate him or her with superfluous information that wastes both parties' time. A company representative should answer the phone by giving the company's name, their name, and a simple ''How can I help you?'' at most.

Tip 2: Consider the Use of ''After-Hours'' Call Centers — Establishing call centers that customers can call with any questions or concerns that they may have is great. But for numerous reasons, not everyone will be able to contact your business during your company's predetermined hours. This makes an ''after-hours'' call center highly attractive to customers. This way, the customer can call the company when it is convenient for him or her, not only during times that are convenient for you. Moreover, an after-hours contact will often make the customer hold your company in even higher esteem because it goes beyond what most companies typically do.

Tip 3: Contact Clients ASAP if They Contact You — If a client calls your company and leaves a message, respond to that individual's call within a predetermined time period, say, three days. Taking three weeks to get back to a client who's only question is ''How do I change the address to which you send all of my information?'' will only make that client think poorly of your company. And it may also make them think twice about doing business with your company in the future. More than anything else, you want to show the customers that you care about their business and that you value them.

Tip 4: Properly Prepare Personnel — Employees should know what they can reasonably expect in their jobs and how they should respond to certain situations. For instance, what is company protocol for answering phones? What should representatives ask of callers before they transfer a call to another employee? If a given situation or problem arises, who should they transfer the call to? Training employees in these areas before they have contact with customers will ensure that when they do in fact have contact with them, the result will be pleasant experiences all around.

In the competitive world of business, everything that can improve your relationship with customers is important — and that includes the interactions that your employees have with customers over the telephone. When customers hang up, they should do so holding a positive view of your company, because that view will ultimately lead to success.

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