The Lee Kenny column – Make your first impressions count

Lee Kenny, managing director of Snowflake Media.
Lee Kenny, managing director of Snowflake Media.

Many moons ago I worked in the travel industry, and for most of it in the retail shop of Tui or Lunn Poly as it was known back then. To keep standards high there was a rigorous training programme and regular visits from the dreaded mystery shopper!

Rumours would fly around when the mystery shoppers were in the area and the different stores would be on the phone if they suspected they were in town. Ignoring the fact that this skewed the results, as a young manager, it did teach me one major lesson – you are only as good as your weakest team member.

What I mean by that is that when the mystery shopper came, if they spent time with the least experienced member of the team, those results were how your shop were perceived.

Seem unfair?

Well it’s how we, as customers, view our own experiences.

How your business is perceived by the outside world is based upon their reality, not yours! This week I have been out of the office and on the road and have experienced this first hand when eating out.

I didn’t have any meetings planned over lunch so on separate days decided to pick a nice place for lunch so I could a) eat some nice food and b) find a nice environment to do a little writing while I waited.

Experience number 1. On Tuesday I visited a large 5* hotel in the centre of Leeds and went to their restaurant.

Asking for a table for 1 I was greeted by an exasperated host who with a large sigh struggled to figure out where to place me.

This was despite the restaurant being 80% empty. Eventually I was seated in a casual side area and essentially made to feel like it was a bit of an inconvenience. The food was good, but service was incredibly slow, the bill came back incorrectly.

They actually forgot to add the food to the bill! As tempting as it would have been to just pay for the drinks, when I fessed up, the care factor was pretty much zero.

Experience 2: On Wednesday I decided to visit Shibden Mill Inn for lunch and the welcome couldn’t have been more different. Despite almost every table being full I was greeted with a huge smile and “no problem” when asking for a table for 1.

The food was great and service was fast.

Both bills were the roughly the same, in fact #2 was a little more expensive however the likelihood of me ever going back to eat at #1 is very slim. In contrast the warm smile at Shibden could be worth thousands as I will definitely take staff, clients or family there in the future.

How is your organisation set up? Are people’s first impressions likely to enamour or alienate your potential clients? Food for thought… Make your first impressions count!