By Darren Rahier 

When you walk into work every day, you may have dozens of things on your mind: your daily to-do list, that 10 a.m. phone call, your morning commute, lunch plans… The list goes on.

But those aren’t the things your customers are thinking about. Your customers might be walking through your door for the first time. They’ll see everything with fresh eyes, and they may see things that you’ve become too familiar with to notice every day.

Every little thing you don’t notice because you walk by them every day? Your customers see them. Are they seeing what you want them to see?

Why do first impressions matter?

If your business requires customers to come to your location physically, you understand the importance of first impressions.

This is your chance to show your customers that you’re exactly what they’re looking for. Businesses like banks, hospitals, and government buildings should instill confidence. Other companies may want to assure customers of their expertise, creativity, or company culture.

But how? Let’s look at 3 things that customers almost always notice when they walk into any business for the first time: the people, the smells, and the cleanliness.

1. Customers Notice People

People are drawn to other people.

It’s human nature. Unless there’s something else that’s really jarring or attention-grabbing, most people’s eyes will gravitate to other people. That’s why customer service is so important. You want to make sure that the first people your customers see are great representations of your company and its values.

In an office building, this might be a secretary at the front desk. In a hospital, it could be a patient scheduler or patient registration representative.

Greet your customers right.

One of the best ways any business can make a stellar first impression is to greet its customers with warmth and professionalism.

Here’s how:

  • Know where your customers are coming from. Here’s where every business differs. Think about yours. Have customers who visit your location already talked to someone from the company on the phone? Do they already know exactly what they want, or are they looking for your guidance? Are they likely to be nervous? Stressed out? Excited?
  • Have a protocol. Making sure everyone represents the company well is easier if everyone knows what to do. Have some guidelines for your employees about how to greet customers.
  • Dress the part. It’s no secret that how we dress makes an impression. If your customer-facing employees don’t already wear suits or uniforms, encourage them to come to work looking polished, professional, and dressed appropriately for your business.

2. Customers Notice Smells

Smells are not how you want to be remembered.

This is one thing you don’t want your customers to notice (unless you run a perfume shop!).

Countless studies have shown that smells can have a powerful effect on our emotions and state of mind. Smell is also one of our built-in safeguards against dirty, polluted, and unsafe areas.

If we smell something bad, our instinct is to get out quickly. Good, fresh, clean aromas put people at ease and encourage them to stick around.

Keep your facility free of odors.

You want your customers to not even be thinking about smell so they can focus on your incredible customer service and beautiful location.

  • Take out the trash. It sounds obvious, but trash bins can really stink up a room over the course of the day. Make sure your space is clear of trash, old food, and anything else that could leave a lingering smell.
  • Be ready for emergencies. You’re busy. Dealing with old food or stinky coffee spills may not always be your first priority, and that’s the way it should be. Have a bottle of air freshener hidden away just in case.
  • Keep the bathroom spotless. A clean, well-maintained bathroom sends a great message. It also goes a long way towards keeping your facility smelling fresh. A clean building almost always smells great, which brings me to my next point.

3. Customers Notice Cleanliness

A clean business = a professional business.

Similarly to smells, the cleanliness of your location can have a big impact on your customers’ state of mind and confidence in your business.

The interesting thing about cleanliness is that spaces often get dirty slowly over time. You and your employees may not notice, while your customers, who are seeing it for the first time, do.

  • Check your floors. Carpets can get especially dirty, but wood floors need to be cleaned regularly too. When the sun shines in through the window, it’s easy to tell the difference between a scuffed, grimy floor and clean, shiny one. Which wood floor would you rather walk on?
  • Keep your windows spotless. Clean windows are a must, especially since many business’ customers see them before they even walk in the door! Most windows need cleaning about twice a year.
  • Pay attention to the details. Because your facility is unique, your cleaning and maintenance needs may also be unique. Keep all your surfaces uncluttered and wiped down, and consider:
    • General janitorial services
    • Repainting
    • Pressure washing (Why not let your first impression begin in the parking lot?)
    • Maintenance like plumbing and electrical

A beautiful, sparkling clean bank, hospital, office, or other business will show your customers that you’re competent, professional, and meticulous — that you pride yourself on a safe, comfortable, hygienic facility.

Putting it all together.

All the little things add up, and together they make a huge difference in how your customers feel. Keeping up with all those three things is a lot of work, though. You’ll be busy managing your business and helping your employees learn how to relate to customers. You shouldn’t have to worry about taking out the trash or washing the windows.

A good commercial cleaning company can create a custom cleaning package for you and clean on nights or weekends so you’re operating hours won’t be interrupted. That’s what we do for businesses in the Portland area.

Are you making your best first impression?