Not being a massive sports fan, I like to take advantage of the quiet streets and empty shops courtesy of the Grand Final. Thinking that I’d beat the crowds and gain the full attention of the sales staff, I entered the empty shopping centre optimistic and ready to purchase. Despite this positive attitude I left the centre empty handed but with a fresh understanding about the relationship between first impressions and customer loyalty.

Entering a small store I noticed that the two sales staff were gossiping at the counter completely absorbed in their banter – not a great first impression. I felt like I was intruding on their conversation and nervously checked to see if I hadn’t just walked into a closed store. I then went to sample some hand lotion, but when I pushed down on the pump, the lotion shot out onto the shop’s glass windows. Being only a metre away from the staff

I turned to apologise and clean up the mess only to find they were oblivious to my indiscretion. So what did I do?

Well I learnt that customers who don’t feel cared for don’t care about a business. If I’m made to feel neglected or unwanted within seconds of entering a store, I’m unlikely to form any loyalty. I felt ignored, so I left and probably won’t be returning. In this instance they missed out on the sale – and a very loyal customer!

My negative initial experience will stop me from forming any long term loyalty to the store, and I’m not the only one to judge based on first impressions. released a report earlier this year titled “First Impressions Critical for Fuelling Customer Loyalty” that found 48% of consumers surveyed said that companies most gain their loyalty at their first purchase or at the beginning of their service.

These same quick judgements occur when your customer’s vital first impression is formed over the phone too. Don’t let callers and potential customers feel like they’ve been forgotten on hold or interrupted your day – be present, helpful and make sure every caller gets the star treatment every time. If you don’t, what are the odds they’ll give you a second chance at a first impression? I’m guessing the same as me cleaning up that hand lotion and returning to the store.