You’ve probably heard the old saying, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.” There are many variations on it, but the idea is sound. People form lasting impressions of others based on their very first impression.

That’s why you should review every possible point of contact with a customer, both on a personal and company level. Any point of contact is potentially a first point of contact. Consider how you answer the phone, how quickly you respond to email or service tickets, how your personal appearance and the way you carry yourself might affect first impressions, think about your work area if it’s possible that customers might visit in person.

How You Answer the Phone

The correct way to answer the phone is with something brief, pleasant, and professional. I recommend something similar to “Tech Support. This is Don. How may I help you?” or “Network Operations Center. This is Don. How may I help you?” Avoid curt greetings such as “Tech Support” or “NOC”. Conversely, we want to avoid long, scripted responses that beg for evaluation scores, such as this: “Thank you for calling Giganticom Technical Support Services. This is Josh Supportsman, A+, MCDST, and CCNA. My goal is to provide you with a perfect 10 support experience. How may I provide you with excellent customer service?” Seriously? Wow. You would have lost me about 4-5 seconds into that one. It’s so disrespectful to waste a customer’s time with such a long script, especially right at the beginning of the conversation. I realize that some companies may require you to read such a monstrosity. If yours’ does, suggest that they read this blog post. If that doesn’t work, try to understand their intent in requiring such a script when you answer the phone. Regardless, it will still be very difficult, if not impossible, to make it sound natural and believable. Here’s a link to a previous blog post on how to answer the phone in IT customer service.

How Quickly You Respond to Email

A 2009 Forrester study found that 41% of customers expect a response to email within six hours. It’s probably even shorter now than it was back in 2009. Respond quickly to customer emails, certainly within 24 business hours. Ensure that your emails are pleasantly professional. That means that you include a courtesy greeting such as “Hi Ellie”, “Hello Amy.”, or “Dear Shea.” Write professionally, being careful of spelling and grammar. Remember, you’re not writing to a friend whom you know well. This is a business correspondence which represents you and your entire department and company to anyone who sees it. Also, be sure to use a courtesy close, such as “Sincerely”, “Yours truly”, “Kind regards”, or something similar followed by your name and signature containing your contact information and any other information which might be helpful to the customer. For more about written communication, check out my previous blog post at this link.

How You Appear in Person

A student came up to me at a corporate training and complained that no one takes him seriously. Well, he mumbled when he spoke, he shuffled when he walked, his clothes were disheveled, and he looked at the floor when he spoke. There was nothing about his appearance or demeanor that would inspire confidence in him. Check the people around you, especially the people who seem to be respected by your colleagues at work. Notice how they dress, how they carry themselves, and how they interact with others. Make a video of yourself to get an idea of how others see you. Does your appearance and demeanor suggest confidence and competence or something else?

Last Impressions Matter, Too

In addition to making a good first impression, it’s also important to make a good last impression. Whether it’s on the phone, via email, text, or chat, or in person, remember that the last impression people have of you will often stay with them. Make sure to respect their space by cleaning up after yourself.Remember the three Ps: Keep it positive, pleasant, and professional. Let your customers know if there are any next steps. Ask if the issue has been resolved to their satisfaction. Ask if there’s anything else you can do.

Good Impressions Matter

Remember, you’ve got to be a master of the technologies you support and you must also look and act like you’re a master. When you combine your deep technical competence with a professional appearance and demeanor, you create a powerful combination for career success.

For More Ideas on How to Improve Communication and Customer Service Skills

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