First Impressions Matter: Starting a Great Customer Experience on the Right Foot

We offer three kinds of service: good, cheap, and fast; but you can only pick two. Good and cheap won’t be fast. Fast and good won’t be cheap. Cheap and fast won’t be good.

First Impressions Matter: Starting a Great Customer Experience on the Right Foot

There’s a sign you may have seen on the front door of some establishments (mostly restaurants and independent auto repair garages) that sets customer expectations early in a friendly, tongue-in-cheek manner. It reads:

We offer three kinds of service: good, cheap, and fast; but you can only pick two.

Good and cheap won’t be fast.

Fast and good won’t be cheap.

Cheap and fast won’t be good.

Interestingly, this sets expectations, while also putting customers in a good mood. More importantly, it allows you to take your time if you do indeed provide high quality products or services – because you’re controlling the customers’ first impressions of your business before they even enter.

You May Have Only One Shot

With every customer interaction, your team needs to realize, “We may only have one shot; let’s make it count.” A best practice to incorporate is assuming it’s always a customer’s first time. You know how to navigate your business, and you know how everything works, but would a first-time customer?

Knowing nothing about your business, could a first-time customer navigate to the right person? Is that person always: Attentive? Knowledgeable? Eager to help?

To improve customers’ first impressions of your business, assume they don’t know how any of this works. This means you need to take charge, be direct, and guide them. This often includes simple things like clearly marking which door they should use to enter or how and where they can pay you for your products or services.

Your team knows these answers; would every first-time customer?

Because the customer may not know how any of this works, you’re in control. Therefore, always be clear on “the next step” – that is, where to go and what to do. Often, you must tell them what you need them to do. Telling them what you need them to do isn’t rude, it’s appreciated.

Go eat at a Five Guys restaurant. You’ll find yourself easily corralled toward the cashier who has an “order here” sign hanging above. There are several more signs hanging around the room. One reads “pick up,” another “restrooms;” sometimes you’ll even see one that reads “drinks.”

To be clear, many fast-casual restaurants utilize these or similar signs, though we are using Five Guys because it’s a consistent example. Nearly every Five Guys restaurant is built using a single layout and all are easy to navigate. So, whether you are a regular at Five Guys’ establishments or it’s your first time eating a hamburger, you understand quickly how their system works.

Hop online and go to Navigate to a pair of shoes you believe you’d like to own. What do you see? You see images of the shoes, the price of the shoes, the reviews/ratings of the shoes, and you see a button known as a call-to-action (CTA) that reads “Add to Cart.”

Zappos is telling you what to do. It’s appreciated. It’s also good business.

Without proper CTAs, ecommerce websites would sell nothing. Likewise, without easy, intuitive navigation – allowing customers to find what they want quickly, even if it’s their first time visiting the site – Zappos and every other ecommerce retailer would be bankrupt.

Zappos is taking charge, being direct, and guiding their website visitors. Your business must do the same if you want your first impressions to be positive ones.


In the last post in this series, we learned how providing a great experience with today’s customers meant delivering your goods or services with the three E’s (efficiency, eagerness, and effectiveness). When it comes to providing a great first impression, all three are important, though eagerness sets the tone.

Having a desire to serve the customer – being downright eager about it – is easily projected. Customers feel this and they appreciate it. Moreover, the more eager your team is to serve, the more likely customers are to forgive mistakes.

You cannot hide genuine eagerness. Likewise, you cannot hide a lack of genuine eagerness. Eagerness to serve the customer is so important to both first and lasting impressions, it should be a job requirement for any frontline worker or manager. Eagerness, more than any other trait, determines whether your customer will feel like you care.

Not Everyone Can Fake Eagerness

That sticky sweetness we sometimes hear from hotel clerks or restaurant servers – you know; that phony concern and forced smile that lacks genuine eagerness – is often easy to spot. For many of your customers, this phoniness masquerading as customer service is like nails on a chalkboard.

Phony sweetness is so bad, in fact, we would argue some of you are better off just being your everyday, boring, miserable, honest selves if you can’t be eager. Serve them what they came for without the phoniness.

Certainly, there are those successful servers and sellers who are masters at faking eagerness. For these gifted folks, all it takes is a few batted eyes or a concerned look – maybe using the customer’s name – and most customers can’t tell fake eagerness from genuine eagerness. As a customer, if you think you’re spotting fake eagerness, it’s because those employees aren’t very good at it. Conversely, if you think you’re an expert at spotting genuine eagerness, bless your naïve little heart: everybody works their pay plan.

Successful waiters and waitresses working for tips always strive to appear eager to serve. Likewise, commissioned salespeople always want to display a genuine concern for their customers.  If your frontline team is paid by the hour, their compensation isn’t determined by how they treat each individual customer. This is where you come in; eagerness must become a habit for your team.

Think about Chick-fil-A for a minute. Yes, they provide a good quality chicken sandwich. As we’ve written, it’s not the absolute best sandwich any of us have ever had; it’s just fried chicken and a couple of pickles on a bun. Yet, as we’ve learned, Chick-fil-A is basically world-renowned for blowing away their competition with their customer service.

Here’s what we know about Chick-fil-A: Their employees eagerly sell fast food sandwiches.

Yet, this is somehow mind-blowingly great customer service? In comparison to McDonald’s (where they also have a chicken sandwich on the menu), it is.

Here’s what we know about McDonald’s: Their employees sell fast food sandwiches.

Notice the difference? Oh, and don’t say it’s about manners. If the employees at Chick-fil-A were not eager to serve, would the service be perceived as being even half as good? Would hearing “my pleasure” or “please” or “thank you” from employees who hated their jobs or their customers ring true? Of course not.

What about the food quality? Without the eagerness, would people rave about fried chicken and a couple of pickles on a bun? Doubtful.

If you expect to become a CX juggernaut, your frontline folks have a choice: Be genuinely eager to serve or find some other line of work.

This is the eleventh post in a series of excerpts from Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience, a book written for everyone in any organization that has customers. That is, it was written for those in both the public and private sector; and for everyone in these organizations. From the frontline, customer-facing employees to the CEO and board of directors.

Each chapter in Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience concludes with Key Learnings and Chapter Exercises to make certain you and your team take the efficient path to becoming Customer-First. As you’ll learn in this ridiculously short book, building and maintaining a CX juggernaut isn’t hard… in fact, it’s ridiculously simple. Buy it now on Amazon!