As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

First impressions last – and once made they will either go in your favour or against. If it’s not a favourable impression, you may never get to rectify it. Even worse, this impression happens in the first 7 seconds of meeting someone. So, if you want people to do business with you, you MUST know the 5 simple rules: SMILE, SYSTEM, SCRIPT, SERVICE, and SURPRISE.


If you can nail these 5 key ways to make a good first impression, your business is already on its way to success. Anyone can be good, but only great businesses are memorable and the ones that clients continuously come back to.

1.    Always SMILE

If it takes 7 seconds to make a good impression, why not fill it up with 3 things: a greeting, their name, and a SMILE.

“Hello, Catherine, my name is Milton. It’s wonderful to meet you.”

It’s not hard to say these things, but it sounds so much better when there’s a smile on your face and in your voice.

When you smile at someone, in this case, Catherine, it makes her more likely to like and trust you. It makes you seem more approachable and caring. Research shows that a genuine smiling face creates customer joy and enhances brand appeal. Notice, I said genuine?  I’m not talking about encouraging cheesy, fake smiles that people straight away pick as superficial. I’m talking about a welcoming and caring attitude.

But in saying that, any smile — even if it is a little forced, is better than none.

Smiling also helps you speak slower and clearer! So many companies I’ve helped over the years, answer the phone by rattling off their company name like they’re reciting the alphabet, there’s no deliberate engagement or smiling tones.  I ask my team to take a breath and smile BEFORE they pick up the phone. The tone of a smiling person is undeniably warm and helps the talker pause mentally ready to make that GREAT first impression.

2.    Have a SYSTEM for everything!

Systems are the backbone to optimal functionality. You need to have good systems in place so that your team, and even you, have something reliable to lean on.

A trusted and secure system to fall back on can make all the difference between being mediocre or being memorable. You can’t always remember everyone’s name for example, but you can ensure it’s in the system and accessible to everyone on the team immediately. This way whenever a client walks in, every single staff member knows who they are and why they are there.

I believe in systems for:

  • How to greet people
  • How to handle a complaint
  • How to answer the phone
  • What to say to a difficult client?
  • How to ensure the place is clean and tidy
  • How to communicate with team members
  • How to ensure clients are happy
  • How to begin and continue relationships

The list can go on and on. In short, I believe in systems for all important business processes. If you ever find yourself asking someone how to do something, make another system! If you had to ask, I’m sure others did too.

Think about some systems you can implement today that will make your business more customer focused. I’m sure you can list three immediately.

3.    Perfect your SCRIPTS

To make systems work, it’s important to use scripts. These help people feel at ease with the interactions that will inevitably pop up in business. Why not arm your staff with conversational ammunition and armour?

Scripts help your team convey a warm, inviting presence every time. It’s critical. The first person they interact with can decide if they do business with your company or not. If your receptionist is having a bad day, the script can save them and help ease the tension of the day.

Scripts aren’t supposed to be recitations, they’re supposed to take the pressure off staff and give them guidance. It’s really a form of branding and way to ensure a good customer experience every time.

Remember, scripts aren’t just for the phone but for all greetings, or for answering FAQs. It might be obvious to you what to say if someone asks ‘How to book an appointment’ – but write a short script so that everyone feels just as confident.

4.    Get your SERVICE right

Treat others our you would like to be treated? WRONG. Treat others how THEY want to be treated.

What you believe is great customer service may in fact be very annoying to your client. You need to look deeper than the customer, deeper than the sale. You need to look at the person and see what they want. Read in-between the lines and deliver. That’s the difference between good customer service and memorable customer service.

Some clients want to make fast decisions, some want to move slow. It’s up to you to find out what they want, how they like to think, how they like to be treated, how they like to make decisions — and let them do that.

Service isn’t just the “would you like fries with that?” method. That’s just upselling, it’s not about discovering what they like and who they are. You can still upsell but upsell the product that is personal to them.

5.    Always SURPRISE your clients

Good business is not enough. You need to be memorable, and you need to stand out from your competitors.

The tiny little thing that will help do that? The art of SURPRISE. The Wow factor! Put the DELIGHT back into business.

Many believe that providing good customer service is the wow factor, it’s not! That’s old school business. The new way of doing business is making it an experience.

Good customer service is a great basic ingredient — but it won’t get you to rise beyond mediocre. These days people expect good customer service, and they complain if they don’t get it.

Surprises don’t have to be big statements. I’m not talking about being Oprah and surprising an entire room with a note under their seat and giving them a new car. I’m talking about intimate surprises; meaningful moments they’re not expecting.

If you run a hotel for example and you found out your client loves tennis, buy the latest tennis magazine, and put it on their bedside table with a little note. If you don’t have a tennis court, tell them you can hire the local court on their behalf. Don’t just give directions, make the call, and do the actions for your client.

If you can follow these 5 simple steps, you’ll be way in front of your competitors. Even better, nail them and your competitors won’t be able to catch up. Be the best, offer the best and stay the best. Do this and your business is bound to succeed.