The Most Important Impression

You often hear that first impressions are the most important. You only have one to make.

And while first impressions are important, I don’t believe they’re the most important.

It’s the most recent negative impression that’s the most important.

Image by Jan Tik

Let me share a story with you.

When I started to improve my fitness level, I started to eat yogurt. Every weekday I would enjoy a cup.

For almost a year everything was great. My opinion of the yogurt company continued to rise as I had a positive experience.

But something happened a couple of weeks ago.

I opened a cup and scooped the yogurt off of the lid. The spoon touched my tongue and I almost gagged.

While the yogurt on the lid looked normal, the yogurt inside of the cup had started to mold. It no longer tasted like strawberry banana but of mold.

I’m not sure if this was due to a hole in the lid or poor quality control. But it’s affected the way I eat yogurt.

It has created in me an urge to look into the cup, to smell, and to give a quick stir to the yogurt before I take the first scoop.

Even though I’ve had positive experiences for a year, one experience has made me cautious. It’s made me question whether or not my next bite will be good. And the oddest thing is, I think my yogurt tastes different.

I know it doesn’t, but in my mind it does. And that’s where the issue is.

My view of the product has now been altered.

* As a side note, the yogurt company has handled this incident with incredible customer service.

What can you learn from this experience?

  • One bad experience trumps many positive experience
    Like I related in the story, I’ve had hundreds of cups of yogurt. There had been no issue before. But I remember this incident more than I remember the great flavor of the past.
    The bad experience remains in the forefront of my mind. And if your customer has a bad experience, it will be what they remember.

  • Your customers may continue to use your product but they will do so with caution
    I still eat the same brand of yogurt but now I’m much less trusting of the quality. It has to be checked out and tested to make sure there is no mold. I’m approaching the brand with caution.
    Your customers may come back to you after a negative experience but the trust will not be there. They’ll wonder when the next bad experience will happen.
    You will have to work extra hard to win their trust back. Take the time to do it properly and you will have a customer for life.

  • A bad experience doesn’t have to be the end of a customer relationship
    Even if your customer has a bad experience, it doesn’t have to be the end of your relationship.Reach out to the customer and try to make amends.
    Acknowledge the problem. Offer a refund. Let them know you’re working to fix the problem. Owning up to the mistake goes a long way.
    Try to remind the customer of the past positive experiences. Do your best to get a positive experience to the customer right away.
    If you’re able to get the customer to remember the previous, positive experiences and give them more positive experiences right away you’ll be able to save the relationship.

Know that there is always the possibility of a customer may have a bad experience with you. But also realize it doesn’t have to be the end of you or the relationship.

Work with the customer to find a resolution that benefits the customer. Make them feel like they are your most important customer.

Rebuilding the trust may take time but in the end you’ll reap the rewards.

Question: How do you overcome the impact of a customer having a negative experience? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Bad experiences do make us hesitant to trust again. And, I agree, building that trust again is possible but you have to be willing to take the risk and not walk away. Great example, Joe. Glad you gave your yogurt a second chance!

    • Thanks Eileen! How have you recovered from a bad impression?

  • I think the biggest thing is to reestablish trust by doing all you can to mend that relationship. We tend to forget that customers / clients / church or organization members each represent a relationship to us and our business. Just like any other relationship, we need to apology for the bad impression and go above and beyond to make it right to them again.

    • In what ways have you gone above and beyond to make things right again?

  • Wow…really great thoughts on this Joe…

    I agree with Vana…trust is a huge, huge deal…they have to go out of their way for us to trust them again..

    • Thanks Arny. Glad you enjoyed it!

      Exactly. That’s why you have to make the effort to rectify the situation. What ways could you think of to do this?

      • A year’s supply of free Yogurt!!!! lol…just kidding….something like that…

        • A years worth of yogurt? That might be a bit hard for me to keep down (-;

  • I think letting the other party know you have heard their concerns. Really listen, don’t just pretend to. People know when they are being listen to and when they are being blown off.

    • That’s a great point TC. And that was one of the awesome things about the yogurt experience. I mentioned it on Twitter and the company took care of me right away.

  • (I just threw up a little in my mouth) Anyway,

    A negative experience can totally impact any positive experiences from the past. I think it greatly depends on how the person/company reacts to your bad experience. This often determines if I buy the product or service again. I’m always willing to give a product or company a second chance, only if they try and make things right after the bad experience.

    It sounds like the yogurt company is doing everything they can to make things right, so much so you probably will buy yogurt from them again (Even though it might be hard to eat the first few spoon fulls for a while).

    Great thoughts man!

    • Well Dan, I guess I created a visual that worked.

      I know I related this to a company that I experienced an issue with. In what ways can you see this relating to leadership?

      • I think it’s important for leaders to be positive and adding value to others so when they do make a mistake that effects others (Words or actions) they would have enough positive credit with the person (Hopefully) to be able to turn the situation into a better one.

  • yep yep yep… it’s all about trust… but some customers don’t really know forgiveness, so even with Arny’s year supply… eventually… they’ll wander off…

    Great post Joe!!