Poor first impressions can cost your organization a lot.  In this case it might have cost this organization several thousand dollars a year.

Recently I  participated in a College Fair with my son Graham.  Over 50 colleges were represented, but we had narrowed our list down to the top five schools with whom we wanted to talk.  As we made our way from table to table we were greeted with enthusiasm as admissions counselors promoted their school.  I watched as student after student walked by with building excitement of their future.

Four of the five schools were ready for prospective students.  They had information, brochures and eagerly answered our questions or pointed us to the detailed information on their website.  But one of the schools taught me much about the importance of guest services and first impressions.

While (based on the number of representatives for their school) they were the best represented school at the fair, they were the worst first impressions of any school we talked to.  Representatives were playing or working on their iPads.  Others were talking to each other as student upon student walked by trying to get information.

This was a great opportunity to impact people’s future, but what a disappointment for my family as we experienced a poor first impression.  One representative, without standing up or putting down her iPad, pointed us to the next table.  The next person said “We are out of brochures, you can just go on-line.”  The third person we talked to from this university told us he knew nothing about our potential major.  Finally we found a fourth representative whom we talked to and he was able to answer our questions.   We had to talk to four representatives, the first three did not even introduced us to the next representative.  By the time we had found our answers we had decided this would not be the school of our choice.  (They are a large school so they won’t miss us.)

But the lessons for you and I are:

1. Do your Guest Services have the answer to the questions people are asking?

2. Do your volunteers put down their iPad or phones and watch for inquiring guests?

3. Do you notice your volunteers talking more to each other than to the guests?

4. Do your volunteers introduce the guest to others?  Especially when trying to find out more information?

Take a lesson from our universities, first impressions are important!