Like every entrepreneur, you know the importance of creating a strong and positive first impression — whether your goal is to build new business, attract staff, intrigue investors or entice business partners.
The truth is that first impressions are lasting impressions. Once they are established, first impressions are incredibly difficult to alter — particularly if those impressions are not favourable.
So, making a good first impression is always important. Given that reality, it is essential that your reception area – which most often creates the first impression – shapes the right impression. In other words, this physical space and the experience that people have in it must reinforce something special and positive about your business.
Unfortunately, entrepreneurs typically set up the reception area based on the functional need of the operations (i.e. separating where the work is done from the ‘rest of the world’) as opposed to thinking about this area from a visitor’s perspective. And, because people have an incredible ability to adapt to the physical environment, entrepreneurs quickly lose their ability to ‘see’ their reception area through the eyes of someone who is new to their place of business.
To overcome this high-risk-laden ‘blindness’ — entrepreneurs can take a very simple step before jumping into the expense of initiating a well-meaning ‘reception makeover’: ask your visitors.
Specifically, ask your visitors for their first impressions of how they felt and what they thought of you, your colleagues and your firm once they walked into your reception area. Make sure that you probe to make sure that they’re not candy-coating their responses. And, ask what specifically about the physical space gave them their most positive and negative perceptions. You should also ask how they spent their time in the reception area (i.e. sitting, standing, pacing, reading magazines, speaking to the receptionist, etc.). This can highlight opportunities for you to create a positive experience by taking simple steps by providing current/relevant literature, training the receptionist to engage with visitors, etc. Finally, ask how their impressions and experiences compares to those when they spend time in the reception areas of your competitors or other places of business.
You have a reception area. It should be working for you. And, there is an infinite number of ways that you can shape your visitors’ impressions. But, if your reception is not working to help build a strong and positive impression you are ultimately doing your business a disservice — a disservice that is difficult to remedy once that first impression is established.