In the world of customer experience, it could be the ultimate dichotomy. It’s certainly a subject that comes up time and time again.

What’s the most important part of customer service, the first impression you make with a customer or the lasting impression the customer leaves with?

Some would argue that it’s first impressions, some would argue it’s the lasting impression; whichever way you look at it there is something else you first need to consider – a customer’s expectations of the service you deliver.

It’s only natural that when a customer calls, visits a store or goes to your website that they will do so with a pre-determined set of expectations. There are many, many different things that can influence these expectations including:

  • similar experiences at your competitors
  • previous experience of your products/services
  • social media
  • friends/family
  • demographics
  • etc, etc

All others kinds of things will influence your customer before they’ve even stepped through your doorway – either physically or digitally.

The chicken or the egg?

Take time out of whether first or last impressions is the most important to think about this conundrum.

If a lasting impression then creates the expectation by which the first impression will be judged, which came first? The first or the last impression?

For your customers, first impressions will do one of two things:

  1. prove the expectations right
  2. prove the expectations wrong

Is it really that simple? Well, not quite.

That’s because a customer’s expectations could be low or high, and proving the expectations wrong is fraught with danger. If they have low expectations then the standards of the first impression don’t necessarily have to be that high to exceed the customer’s expectations, but if their expectations are high and the same ‘low standard’ first impression is used then you run the risk of loosing the customer before their current journey with you has even begun.

So what about lasting impressions?

As I referenced above these will actually influence your customer’s future expectations. They can also influence if your customer will even return in the future.

You could make the best first impression in the world, ever – but creating a poor lasting impression would mean this pails into significance.

Equally, make a bad first impression and you’ll find it mighty difficult to pull the customer back from the brink. Not impossible, but it’s a barrier you could do without.

To go back the start of my musing, is it first impressions that is the most important or last?

Well, in my opinion it’s neither. You can’t do one without the other – they are the yin and yang of customer service; they are as one. If you get both right you’ create a virtuous circle, but get one of them wrong and you could end up in a vicious circle.

Together they mean everything, and by now you’ve probably guessed where this is going so do the best bass-baritone voice you can muster, take a deep breath and belt it out…

You’re the first, the last, my everything