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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett

Beginnings and Endings Matter in Business

Spruce up the entrance to your home, and bake apples with cinnamon to sell your home more quickly, realtors advise. Realtors know that first impressions count. Similarly, the first experience a customer has with your company sets the tone for the entire engagement, and the last experience creates the final impression of your company.

Think of when you interviewed a prospective employee, and the interview went downhill from the beginning. Maybe the candidate was late, or maybe the candidate hadn't bothered to research your company. In five minutes you knew that the candidate would not work out.

So, too, the first experience a prospective customer has with your company will determine whether the customer will disappear or will seek more information and ultimately make a purchase. The people who answer the phone at my bank are friendly and well trained. They solve my problems within a couple of minutes. In contrast, many companies hire people to screen customers' telephone inquiries, and the screeners are unfriendly, unhelpful, and ill informed. The screeners give a poor impression of the company, and frustrated customers hang up.

Early impressions are also important when companies speak with consultants. If a consultant offers you ready-made solutions before asking you a lot of questions about your company and your issues, this may not be the right consultant for your company. Additionally, if the consultant sticks to a script and does not listen to you, it foretells a troubled relationship.

"The Sense of an Ending"*

Good endings are also crucial. Repeat business and referrals are not a given. The triumphant salesperson should thank the customer appropriately. But, that should not be the end of the engagement. All too often, the relieved salesperson has taken the order and the customer's credit card, arranged for delivery of the product, but failed to include directions, warranty policies, or recommended maintenance schedules. This annoys the customer who must call or email to request the missing information. Other vendors follow up a purchase with a letter or email asking the customer to buy again. In contrast, wouldn't it be nice if vendors followed up with a thank you call or email and an offer to answer questions about the product or service.

*From the title of Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending

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Copyright © 9/17 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.


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