Falling at the final fence

last impressions

What’s your last impression…?

You’ve had a fantastic time. You’ve been well cared for, attended to with fantastic hospitality. Your meal, stay or day out was wonderful, the atmosphere was relaxed and all your friends and family have had a good time.

But then they fall at the final fence…

It’s time to go home and suddenly no one is interested. You want to pay, but nobody wants to take your money! You take a visit to the loos and wish you hadn’t. You’ve lost your gloves and want to report it to lost property, but can’t find anyone. You were told about membership to get your entrance fee refunded but there’s no one to be found, so you think “forget it!”.

Has this ever happened to you?

More importantly has it ever happened to any of your customers?

One of the most important determining factors in prompting a positive lasting memory, a potential repeat visit or a glowing recommendation is what happens in the very last few minutes of the customers’ experience. It’s this last impression that influences their biding memory.

What’s the very last thing your customers see, hear, smell, taste or feel as they leave.

If your customers only ever get to speak to you by phone what’s the last thing they hear?

What’s the very last touch at the point of purchase; for example a confirmation or thank you message, a farewell, a follow-up invitation, invitation for feedback, etc.

Do your customers feel appreciated and that you’re sorry to see them go?  Or are your team members unintentionally making signs that they’ve other more important things to be getting on with? The equivalent of impatiently looking at their watch or getting the Hoover out! It may not be obvious, but letting customers know you’re running late, that you’re relieved it’s home time or closing time, showing signs of rushing them out of the door or off the premises.

What process do you use to get personal feedback from customers? If this is done before customers leave it means you have an opportunity to reinforce positives. It’s an opportunity to resolve any problems or concerns before customers leave, so they still leave with positive last impressions. It also shows customers you are interested in their feedback; all adding to the feeling of being appreciated.

How sensitive is your team at picking up when a customer is in a hurry and they need to speed up? When customers are in a hurry or ready to leave, and we keep them waiting to pay their bill or check out; that’s not the best impression to leave with a customer when they have to wait to part with their money! But it might be the one thing that puts a damper on an otherwise great experience.

What’s going on behind the scenes that’s not quite what you’d like your customers to experience? Are your toilets as pristine at the end of a busy day as they are at the beginning? (Just reflect on how many of your customers make the ladies or gents their last port of call before setting out on their journey home.)

What’s the last conversation they hear as they leave? Is it all genuine smiles and sincere thank yous, or do they get to hear the back-stage gossiping and gripes? Or the complaints about how busy they’ve been and how tired they are, or about the slow internet connection which is why they’ve been kept waiting.

What’s the last thing they see on their way to the car park? Particularly if there’s a sneaky short cut via a rear exit.  Is it the chaos of a back office, the cluttered cleaning cupboard or the over flowing bins, or even your team having a crafty cigarette by the back door? Not good last impressions.

What do they see or feel in the car park? How secure do they feel if it’s dark? Is the level of service consistent with everything else, or is the last person they see a grumpy car park attendant or off duty team members fooling around and letting the side down?

Even if you’re dependent on a third-party provider and you have no direct control over it, your customers won’t differentiate. So if your security or cleaning is outsourced, if you have products which are delivered by couriers, or if your offers or feedback surveys are managed by a marketing company, this is one of the most critical touch points of your customers’ journey; do you really want to leave it to chance with your suppliers?

Everything your customer experiences during their visit up to this point might be seamless and perfect.

But it’s those last few moments which influence the end result – how they feel, what they say, and what they do as a result of their visit.

So don’t let it all fall down at the final fence.

Take action

If you only do one thing – conduct an audit of the final phases of your customer journey. What’s the last impression your customers leave with, and what one thing could you and your team do differently to make it even better.

There are some more auditing tools for hospitality and tourism businesses here

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