About a year ago, I moved from a house in the suburbs to a small apartment in the city.
While I enjoy a lot of aspects of city living; the cultural events at my fingertips, the efficiency of public transit, the local shops within a short walk, there is one thing I don’t enjoy…running into Mr. Winkle.
Mr. Winkle is not his real name, at least I highly doubt it. In fact, I have no idea what his real name is, nor does he know mine. Mr. Winkle is a name I have given him. (Like Mr. Heckles on Friends, except I got the name wrong and now “Mr. Winkle” has stuck.)
Mr. Winkle lives in my building.
If there’s one thing I know for sure about Mr. Winkle, it’s that Mr. Winkle is negative.
Yup. He’s a grump. Know the kind I mean? Never a kind word. A black cloud over their head. Glass half-empty.
I’ve come to this conclusion about Mr. Winkle over time. It’s a composite sketch that has developed after numerous encounters but one which is based solidly on my first impression.
Here’s when it started…
Monday is laundry day for me.
Working from home, I have the luxury of being able to do laundry during the day. There are only four washers and four dryers in my building so I have chosen to do my laundry when competition is least likely. Daytime for sure, and Monday seemed as good a day as any. “Start the week fresh,” I thought.
Monday is laundry day for Mr. Winkle too.
“You new here?,” he asked as he stuffed sheets into the washing machine I had just emptied.
“Yes, I just moved in a couple of weeks ago,” I replied. “How long have you lived here?”
“Been here twenty years,” he said, sounding like a prisoner putting in his time.
“It seems like a nice building,” I said.
“It used to be,” he said. “We used to have a Super. on site. Now there isn’t one. Now we have to wait if we want anything done.”
“Oh,” I replied, not knowing how to react, since so far I’d found the building manager who came each morning to be most helpful.
Mr. Winkle then went on to complain about the upcoming election and the candidates in our riding. Not knowing any of them yet, I couldn’t add much to his comments.
I switched my laundry from the washers to the dryers as quickly as I could and wished him a good day.
“Maybe he was having a bad day. Don’t let first impressions paint a full picture,” I told myself.
Mr. Winkle and I have met on laundry days throughout the year and Mr. Winkle always has something to complain about – the weather, the building, politics, the laundry room, something in the news…
His car is parked near to mine in the parking garage. He complains when we meet there too.
Last week, we met at the elevator. He was coming out as I was going in. He held the door for me as I jostled my cart of groceries around him and stepping into the 1950’s-sized (read: small) enclosure. Once I was inside, he continued to hold the door open as he complained about the elevator itself: the size, the noise it’s been making lately…but he didn’t stop there. He had a captive audience, literally.
He went on to complain about the notice of the annual fire alarm inspection that required access to our units to check all were functioning well (something I, new to apartment living, was grateful to learn they did). Surely after living here for twenty years, this wasn’t a new thing, and if it was, he should have been complaining about that – and I’m sure he would have.
His worry was that he would be robbed. “Who knows who they’re letting into our apartments.” So now he had to arrange to be home all day, “because of course they can’t give you a specific time.”
Did my first impression of Mr. Winkle cloud my impression of him overall? Perhaps for the next one or two encounters. But Mr. Winkle held to form and I developed a pretty unshakable character sketch.
I’m only human.
Generally, a person’s first impression is pretty powerful and if it’s not a good one, it takes many more impressions to change their mind, if they ever do.
Say you met someone when they were having an off day, and every time you saw them afterward, they were charming. There may be a niggling feeling that tells you, “Sure, he seems good now, but don’t forget that first time you met him.”
First impressions last.
Mixed with our own biases and perspectives, we can’t help but categorize people we meet. We ask ourselves, “Is this a person I want to get to know better?”
Are they a potential friend, date, partner, or in the case of business, are they an establishment I want to continue going to and supporting? Or do I want to end it now?
I ask you, if you know a “Mr. Winkle”, do you end up trying to avoid him or do you try to befriend him?
So what about business impressions?
Each touch-point you have with your customer paints a picture of who you are and what you’re all about.
The trouble is, you never know when it will be someone’s first impression of you.
If you want customer loyalty (and what business doesn’t?), you need to leave people with a good impression, every time.
If yours is a business that is making a positive difference in the world, then you have it easier than many to leave positive, lasting impressions.
You are the Brad Pitt’s and George Clooney’s of business!
We’ll be routing for you to get back up.
Why? Because our impression of you, from what we’ve read, seen, and heard meet with our criteria of a good guy.
Brad and George epitomize everything we like in a guy – smart, funny, good looking, a man’s man, a lady’s man, and they do their part to help society and the planet. What’s not to like?
Yes, they make mistakes, but we forgive them because Brad and George feel authentic. We relate to them because we’ve read stories about them and formed a strong and lasting impression of them. We feel as if we know them.
And yet, we don’t know them.
We’ve never met them! (Most of us, at least.) But I’m willing to bet that whether you’re a woman or man, gay or straight, you’ve thought it would be cool to hang out with them. Am I right?
Do you want to hang out with Mr. Winkle?
Even if George and Brad aren’t your cup of tea *gasp* then you’d have reasons to support that claim from a story you heard which created a lasting first impression.
People relate to and remember stories because stories make us feel something.
Make sure your customers know who you are.
Tell the stories we’ll care about and we’ll care about you.
Authenticity builds trust. Trust builds loyalty.
(…by the way, I now do laundry on Thursdays.)
Have you had experiences with “Pitt/Clooney” businesses vs. “Mr. Winkle” businesses?
How did each make you feel?
Do you still support any of them? Why or why not? Share below.
photocredit: glass half full/empty