Business leaders know instinctively that first impressions are essential. Interestingly, though, there’s also a lot of hard data backing up their intuition.
Research from Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov found that people form their opinions of others in as little as a tenth of a second. The moment they encounter a new entity (a person or business), their unconscious mind gets to work, analysing them using its fabulous parallel processing power. Within a fraction of a second, thoughts are already whizzing around their mind, telling them whether they’ve encountered something “good” or not. And just a few seconds later, they complete the process - something that colours their perceptions from that point onwards.
Smart businesses, therefore, pay a lot of attention to how they make people feel when they first encounter them. On the face of it, large, grande atriums in office buildings don’t make a lot of sense. But when you dig down into the science of first impressions, you quickly realise why companies spend so much money on them. Spaces like these create a fabulous impact and set the scene for everything else that follows.
When it comes to making first impressions, the visual is the most important of all the senses. According to the Chamber of Commerce Foundation in the US, people make 55 per cent of their first impressions based on what they see. Only 7 per cent come from the words that people say, and 38 per cent come from the words that they hear.
These are just casual statistics: they ring true in your life too. Think about how you felt the last time you went somewhere new as a customer. There will have been times in your life when you arrived at business premises and immediately felt uncomfortable. The smell was terrible, there were cobwebs all around the ceiling, and everything looked tatty and dirty.
Now recall how you felt about that establishment overall. Chances are, it wasn’t good.
Some businesses lose the ability to self-reflect on their cleanliness. How they appear just becomes “normal.” Employees get used to the rot, and management stops noticing it, or worrying about it. It is only when clients or customers visit that somebody sees it for what it is.
Public venues, like schools, libraries, stadiums, cinemas and gyms, are often the first to become decrepit, thanks to the sheer number of people who use them. Over time, though, even hospitality establishments, like hotels and restaurants, can suffer. And eventually, office-based businesses can too.
The process at work here is a bit like the frog in hot water analogy. If you boil the water immediately, the frog will hop out. If you heat it slowly, though, it won’t notice. Something similar happens in business premises. Managers and bosses get used to their surroundings, unable to see them anew from the perspective of customers. They don’t notice the dirt, grime and bad odour. And that’s where problems can start.
Workplaces, therefore, need to prioritise cleaning. Your existing clientele will know that you're the real deal because you’ve provided them with a decent service in the past. But new people will have their doubts. Any sign of dirt or mess will immediately put them off, even if you offer a quality product. And that creates an unnecessary barrier to doing business - one that is totally avoidable.
But why are first impressions so important? Why don’t people judge your premises based on the quality of the products they receive?
The answer has to do with signalling theory, something psychologists developed in the 1960s and 1970s to explain why we make split-second choices instead of waiting to evaluate all the facts. What they found was that people take cognitive short-cuts whenever they can. It is much easier to go through life, relying on associations and heuristics than it is to appraise all the evidence over time rationally. Thus, when customers see a dirty business, they assume that also means it offers an inferior quality product. And so, they immediately make their way to one of its competitors.
This discussion so far highlights the importance of cleaning services for creating positive first impressions. First and foremost, they help to rid commercial premises of all the dirt and grime that could unnecessarily put customers off when they show up for the first time. Professional cleaners have an expert eye, and unique technique that allows them to spruce up your premises to a degree you didn’t think was possible. You have to try it to believe it.
Second, they have an eye for how your premises appear to customers when they see it for the first time. They know, for instance, if you're hitting your brand targets. If you’re not, they can suggest ways to improve things, helping you create those all-important positive first impressions.
Don't forget, professional cleaners have a bag of tricks up their sleeves to achieve these fabulous results. They know, for instance, that the state of the bathroom is critical. If it smells, it will put people off, and all they will remember about you is your terrible toilets. They also understand that people tend to look down at the floor when they first enter commercial premises. Scuffs, marks and dirt can have a negative impact on perceptions of your enterprise.
The exterior appearance of your premises also matters. Clean, well-presented and beautiful cladding, mortar, windows and pavements all help to generate a positive first impression. Cigarette stubs, stains above and below vents, and materials covered in mildew do the opposite.
In 2020, the importance of cleaning is more important than ever before. COVID-19 means that customers want to see evidence that you’re doing everything you can to protect them from the virus. Attempting to clean in-house will only cause you to fall short of their expectations. Only professional cleaners have the skills you need to protect everyone who arrives on-site.
Businesses, therefore, are increasingly turning to the cleaning industry to help them attract customers. Cleaning provides a high return on investment, securing new clients and helping to make your premises safe in an era of pandemics. You can radically overhaul your workplace and create those all-important positive first impressions.