At CIY we care deeply about making great first impressions at all of our events, and really anywhere we interact with others. We know you desire this, as well, for your welcome teams at your churches and for the students who will be visiting your youth groups for the first time. To get a better feel for what it takes to truly make a great first impression, we decided to ask three different experts in the hospitality field – a hotel manager, a restaurant hostess and a church welcome team volunteer – for their thoughts on what makes a great first impression.
1. Greet them with a smile!
Hampton Inn Front Office Manager Rachel Boldt says a person’s entire experience with you can be made or broken within the first seconds of arrival. And the best way to set the tone for their visit and interactions with you is to greet them with a smile!
“When I’m traveling and first walk through the door to a hotel, if the desk staff isn't smiling or welcoming me I feel like I'm unwelcomed,” Boldt said. “Personally, this makes or breaks my experience at that hotel. I find that guests have a better experience at hotels when the customer service they receive is the best, and when everyone on staff goes out of their way to make someone feel at home.”
2. Be ready to answer any and all questions … with professionalism!
Crabby’s Seafood Restaurant Hostess Daya Davenport says confidence is key in making a good first impression. Not only do you want to look presentable, but you need to be ready with a quick answer for any query. That means you need to prepare ahead of time and make sure you know the information most people are seeking when they first arrive … and the odd bit of information that might come from a question thrown from out of left field!
“The hostess is the first point of contact at a restaurant, and as a hostess I always try to look my best and be as polite and welcoming as possible,” Davenport said. “I have to be confident and able to answer any questions our guests may have. It's also important for the hostess to have the flexibility to assist with other tasks that servers or guests may need. This shows that customer service is a priority.”
3. Actions speak louder than words.
Welcome Team Volunteer Jessica Laveroni – who is a member of the congregation at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Joplin, Missouri – said it’s the little things that people do that sometimes make the biggest difference for first impressions. Being thoughtful about words, opening doors or even the way you shake someone’s hand can be the difference in a good or bad first impression.
“A great first impression of a church begins within its congregation and the interactions that occur outside of the building,” Laveroni said. “The way we serve the marginalized, how generous we are with our time and how loose we hold our processions are a few examples that come to mind. Words hold a lot of weight, but our actions can change the trajectory of a path … a first impression is a lasting impression.”
One thing that all three of these tips have in common is that interpersonal connections seem to be the key to a great first impression. It can be the deciding factor that keeps a person from returning or not, or the overall impression a community may have of an establishment or organization. What may seem miniscule – a smile and handshake at the front door, a confidently answered question or an assist with a little problem – may be the little thing that matters the most.
Mariah Evans is CIY’s executive campaign administrator. Her email is Mariah.firstname.lastname@example.org.