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Giving the Ride Impression

Morgan J. McArthur, DVM for The Veterinarian

Ever pondered the critical success factors for hitchhiking?

I'll admit that I hadn't. Until the other day.

I passed a roadside teen who seemed interested in going... um, somewhere. He was clad in bigbag pants, an untucked flannel shirt and a dark beanie cap pulled to the top of his wraparound sunglasses. His thumb jutted defiantly toward traffic.

I didn't even slow down. Would you?

What does it take to get a ride from strangers, anyway?

Some of the same things it takes to invite customers to do business with us.

That hitchhiker has an advantage over a veterinarian because he sees every one of his potential "customers" and he gets immediate feedback on his presentation. In a blink's time the passing motorist forms an impression and decides either to stop or to drive on.

Our customers use the same sensors to snapjudge our suitability. Potential patrons zoom past us every day - in the Yellow Pagesª, in our marketing materials, outside our clinic, inside our clinic, in conversations with other customers or clinic staff. While we can't be sure how many new customers have cruised past in a day, our impression makes an impact on our business. Ever pondered that?

If you haven't, you're not alone. In a work2hard world it's difficult to raise our heads and look around. Even if we do we probably won't see ourselves like our customers do.

I invite you to think about three things:

External Presentation. Is everything the public sees of your business congruent with who you wish to be? Look at your Yellow Pagesª listing and your business cards. What about the signage and the external appearance of your facility? Is it "good enough for who it's for?" or does it reflect creativity, pride and professionalism?

Environment. What's in store when they're through the door? Is it clean, organised, and inviting? Or should people get used to the cluttered reception area and the bulletin board still advertising last year's litters for sale? How well is it lit? Is it noisy? Background music is a potent mood-setter. If you have some playing, choose it carefully. Not everybody likes radio rock & roll. Odours make an immediate impression, too.

Attitude. Tom Peters calls the receptionist the "Director of First Impressions." I think everyone in the outfit owns a piece of that title. What kind of attitude is present? Enthusiasm and helpfulness? Is there an air of professionalism or would professionalism be an error? If the staff's attitude isn't up to scratch, why not? How's yours?

There may be business growth lurking in the answers to these hard questions. Query trusted, honest advisors/customers for advice. You may even want to hire an independent assessment by a marketing or advertising professional.

That hitchhiker is a roadside reminder that impressions are very important. Remember, in the vet business and in his, the more customers that give you a lift the farther you can go.

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