No matter what your industry, a first impression is of immeasurable importance. The first impression is especially critical within hospitality, where the first few moments have the potential to establish the guest’s entire experience. Those of us in hospitality need to be intentional about creating positive impressions by understanding how to anticipate and appropriately fit into a guest’s experience. 

Understand the Importance of First Impressions

Before you understand how to make the most of first impressions, you need to comprehend their importance. In this day and age, first impressions are more important than ever before. Most guests are on social media, which gives them the ability to share an impression with friends and strangers alike in real-time.

An increasing number of customers are also starting to opt for convenient self-service features over human interactions. I often say, the more high tech we are the more hands off we become. As a result, the window for a first impression is shrinking. When communications are limited, one single negative, or even merely average, interaction carries more weight. 

Approach First Impressions With Intention

Most people believe that the first impression boils down to the first few seconds of entering a new place or meeting a new individual. Several studies have shown that a guest entering your establishment will develop a first impression within the first five seconds. While this is true to an extent, you can take advantage of that short time if you begin preparing far in advance. An excellent first impression starts with a strategy. 

Create a plan of action for how you and your team will approach the customer. Train your team on the answers to frequently asked questions so that no one is caught off guard when they are asked. It is important to also be mindful of body language. Within the blink of an eye you want to always appear approachable and welcoming to your guest. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. 

Create a Welcoming Atmosphere

Because guests typically enter through a lobby, make sure it feels welcoming. Even small details are crucial. Colors and lighting can make all the difference in how someone feels when they first enter a space. Earlier in my career I worked with a company that created an entire program around stimulating the senses through the lobby. I thought the concept was genius. Enhance the senses of your guest so that each time they enter one of your properties, they are reminded of the wonderful experience you created for them. Stimulate the sense of smell so your guests will think of you each time they encounter your signature fragrance. 

On the other hand, you can negatively impact the guest by failing to focus on the basics. A lack of cleanliness will not go unnoticed. You should also ensure that all your offerings are visible so guests can see everything accessible to them during their stay. 

Properly Greet Guests

Greeting your guests in a personal and genuine manner is one of the best ways to foster a positive first impression. Many luxury hotels utilize the “10/4 rule.” This rule dictates that you smile and make eye contact with the guest at around ten feet away from you, and verbally welcome them at four feet. Guests should always be greeted this way, no matter the time of day or other circumstances. 

Once you understand the power of a first impression, you should capitalize on this time by approaching it with intention and greeting guests both through a welcoming setting and a gracious  demeanor.