“You never get a second chance for a first impression”. This is a phrase we have all heard in some variation, usually with a negative connotation - before an interview, going into a social gathering, or meeting someone of importance. In Hospitality, every guest we come in contact with is considered a VIP that we must impress. But does this concept of first impressions being irreversible have to have such a daunting connotation? Let’s take a further look into the concept of first and lasting impressions and get a glimpse into our service from the guests’ perspective.
It takes about a tenth of a second for us humans to form an opinion of someone solely based on their face. Whether or not this sounds morally correct, this is a fact we cannot control as it is simply in our nature. It’s quite unnerving to think that our guest can form a solid opinion of us almost instantaneously, but it is even scarier to think about how this opinion is usually the one that sticks with them throughout the rest of our conversation. However, there are some factors that we can control – and here’s how we do that.
As previously mentioned, the guest’s innate first assessment of us comes strictly from our outer appearance. In hospitality, there are three manageable within our control. Cleanliness, grooming and uniform. Especially in luxury service, we must be absolutely vigilant in our attention to these three variables. We want our guests to look at us and automatically get a good impression of what to expect from our service and level of professionalism, before we even interact with them.
Once we have set ourselves up for success through our professional image, it is time to initiate our interaction. We must keep in mind the timing of our initiation based on when our guest approaches us. The 50-15-5 rule is our rule of thumb when it comes to knowing when to start our interaction. For valet, when the guest's vehicle is 50 feet away is when you want to begin your greeting. For the rest of us, 15 feet is when we want to make eye contact and smile, and 5 feet is when we will begin our verbal greeting.
This ties into an essential part of luxury service which is proactive approaches. This includes making the first effort to aid our guests, predicting their needs, and giving anticipatory service. This will wow them and make them feel like we truly value their time. Every interaction we have with our guests must leave them highly impressed and awestruck, as this is the standard of luxury service. Satisfied or even pleased, just isn’t good enough.
After we have wowed our guests, in order to close our service, we must leave our “lasting impression”. We should first see if there is anything else we can help our guest with. We want to make sure they walk away with their requests completely taken care of and feeling supported. We then conclude with three parts – a thank you, their name, and a closing statement. This is how we seal the deal on our lasting impression, and once more make the guest feel appreciated and valued.
If we combine these elements of professionalism, proactive service, and following simple luxury standards, we are able to elevate what could be a decent interaction, to one that leaves a lasting impression. If we do it right, there is never a need for a second first impression.