One day, a very important customer visited the headquarters of a company with which they had been working. They had never been to the office before and wanted to see where their millions of dollars in purchases were going. So they made an appointment to visit. Up until then, the client usually met a rep from the business at the client’s office, which tended to be easier for them.
The business takes up two floors in an office building. The staff occupies the second floor, and the reception is located on the third floor. When the customer arrived, they went directly to the second floor. When they arrived, there was nobody there to greet them, as the receptionists occupy another floor. The client roamed the halls and cubicles, and no one got up from their desk to ask, "May I help you?" It wasn't their job.
Needless to say, this million-dollar customer wasn't very happy when they finally tracked down their rep. They had already had a poor first experience in their office. As some politicos like to say, never let a disaster go to waste. That may sound a bit extreme, but so is alienating an important customer. Here are some tips for making sure you properly welcome (and wow) your client when they visit your office.
- Training: Train all employees that all visitors are their personal customers, even if they do not have a functional role with that visitor. This means making eye contact, smiling, saying hello, and asking any unattended visitors if they can help. This alone can make a huge difference between having a terrible experience and a potential customer feeling welcome enough to consider doing business with your company.
- Remind the Reception Staff to Be Attentive: The most important employees in the office are the reception staff. What are they communicating when someone walks in? Even if they're busy answering phones, they can still make friendly eye contact, use hand gestures to indicate they'll be right with the visitor and offer assistance immediately after getting off the phone. Be sure to instruct your reception staff not to be constantly looking down at their phones, as this can be a huge turn off when a guest is patiently waiting, trying not to be rude.
- Creating a Personalized Greeting: Have a lobby board that says, "Welcome, Joe Smith from XYZ Company." This incredibly simple gesture takes you no more than a couple of minutes to put together and pays dividends by showing your visitors that you consciously thought about them before their arrival. And if it's a potential client you're having in, this small welcome gesture that shows how much you care about their experience, which can make the difference between their choice to do business with you or a competitor that does give them a memorable experience.
- The Importance of Maintaining a Clean, Welcoming Environment: Maintain a clean workplace in every area a visitor can see, especially near the entrance. Have someone other than yourself look at your work entrance and critique it from the point of view of a potentially valuable customer who comes in to visit. Is the paint chipped? Is the carpet worn? Are two-year-old tattered magazines strewn around the visitor lobby? Make it part of someone's job to assure that the visual aesthetics of your workplace shine through and reflect the professionalism you want to convey for welcoming in clients and prospects.
- Offering self-serve refreshments: Invest in a nice coffee and water system that isn't buried in the kitchen area. Put it where customers can find it and serve themselves while they wait or prepare for their meeting. Have some fresh fruit or healthy, wrapped snacks available (not cheap, stale candy).
For bonus points after your client leaves, consider sending all of your most important visitors a thank you card or small gift to show them that you appreciated them taking the time to come into your office and visit. While this is yet another small gesture, it can go a long way towards wowing a client and giving them a reason to choose you over the competition. Remember, whether your company is large or small, every one of your employees is selling, all of the time.