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Chapter 1 First impressions.

Make the right impression first, by making the first impression right!


After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

1. Understand the impact of first impressions in human interactions.

2. List the basic clues that people use to judge us in the first seconds of meeting.

3. State the importance of presenting a professional business image in the hospitality industry.

4. Identify the impact that your dress and presentation have on your career and in the organization.

5. Describe the critical role that employees play in attracting and keeping customers.

Like it or not, most people judge us by what they see. In the first few seconds of meeting, they have assessed us and made a judgment--positive or negative--that is not easily changed. Before they even hear what we have to say, they have formed an impression. In fact, by the time we open our mouths to speak, our words will account for only a portion of a person's perception of us. The rest is based on our tone of voice and the way we look and move.

When we first meet someone, we look for clues such as clothing choices, grooming and demeanor to tell us about their trustworthiness, credibility, effectiveness, cleanliness, attention to detail and more. These inferences and responses are a part of being human; we need to simplify and organize the incredible amount of stimuli coming at us day and night. These clues are also a shortcut to evaluating a business establishment. By observing the appearance and body language of the personnel, a customer judges--again, positively or negatively--whether or not he or she wants to do business there.

It's obvious, then, that personal appearance, grooming, body language and the first words we say are tools we can use to influence the visual impact we make during our first moments with a new person. When we understand how much we influence others by our dress and appearance, we become much more careful in selecting what we wear to face the world each day.


In this decade of globalization, we live in a society that has been called "high-tech, low touch." In other words, most communications are done through electronics and machines. Face-to-face encounters are usually brief and, therefore, their effectiveness depends on how well and accurately we get our message across. We simply cannot afford to wait for a second positive first impression.

And certainly nowhere is it more important to immediately present a professional business image than in the hospitality industry. When we work in this industry, we are in the "people business" and our encounters are brief. Thus, in the eyes of the customer, your personal appearance and the service you provide represents the image the client has of the company. How you dress and present yourself can affect your effective ness, your profitability and, therefore, your career and the company's success.

The fancy, four-color brochure a hotel, motel, restaurant or resort uses for advertising may entice a prospective guest to visit or stay overnight, but it's the staff's appearance and behavior that will encourage repeat business. The public buys "perceived value." And when, for example, hotel employees look trustworthy, efficient and impeccable, most guests assume that the property is equally trustworthy, efficient and impeccable, too. For the customer, you are the company. Therefore in this decade, with the emphasis on quality and employee empowerment, companies realize that attracting and keeping customers is a process that begins and ends with their employees.

In addition to the potential impact that clothing, grooming and manners have on the viewer, we must also factor in the impact that these choices have on the wearer as well. Pride in your appearance contributes to your sense of self-worth. Studies on this subject link clothing consciousness to higher self-esteem and job satisfaction. According to research by Dr. Judith Walker, of Fairleigh Dickinson University, it is in your best interest to put effort into accentuating your "positive visual image." When we know we look appropriate and we know how to conduct ourselves in any business situation, we feel comfortable and empowered and can concentrate on the business at hand to achieve our goals.


"In the '90s we dressed for success, in the new millennium we dress for excellence."

Dress, especially business dress, is more than our public skin. It is language. We live in a symbolic environment where virtually all the symbols we learn are acquired from others: our family, the country we are raised in, our peers, the company we work for and the work we do. Clothing defines and describes us to the world. That is the reason we wear uniforms: so we can be identified as members of the particular team dedicated to serving our client's needs. The 10 percent of our body not normally covered by clothes is comprised largely of our face and hair. This is the critical ten percent, since this is where people first look. Therefore, our grooming and clothing define the messages that we send out daily about ourselves.

Clothes do not necessarily make the man or woman. But clothes and behavior definitely influence a person's perception of us. Since both our clothing choices and our body language speak eloquently about us, we can use these "tools" at our disposal to positively enhance our visual impact. After all, our ability to successfully convey our message depends on it. William Thourbly, author of You Are What You Wear, maintains that "your appearance is truly the one factor you can control. If you package yourself to manage the impressions you make on others, then their positive reinforcement will, in time, make you the person you want to be."


The elements of image excellence do not stop at clothing and grooming issues. A positive first impression goes beyond how we look (appearance) and what we do (body language) to the way we communicate and serve others. Today we face many challenges: our customers vote every day with their money when they choose our property. Satisfying our value-driven customer is not enough to succeed in today's competitive market. We need to delight the customers and exceed their expectations.

The relationship between men and women has certainly changed dramatically in the past few years. Some of the graciousness that was appropriate in social settings has been modified in the work place. These changes, plus the new ways of communicating with each other through high-tech devices, have brought a new set of rules of business behavior and etiquette.

In addition, in the hospitality industry, globalization is already here. We are multicultural--from the employees to the guests, from the clients to the suppliers. Ignorance of a client's particular culture is the surest way to unravel a carefully planned business relationship. Business today requires a new international awareness, and in hospitality the responsibility is even greater. It is more than avoiding mistakes. It is knowing how to make the guest, the client, the employee and the coworker feel at home--to respect their values and cater to their customs to win their trust, loyalty and support. The global market gives us a great opportunity; after all, people from all over the world may be working with us and visiting us. It behooves all of us, no matter what our present work station, to be sensitive to cultural differences.

Therefore, regardless of your position in the organization, whether you serve the guest directly or serve those who serve the guest, you are in the business of customer satisfaction. And the success of this process begins with the way you present and conduct yourself. Making the first impressions the best and lasting impressions will assure the excellence that you and your company promise and provide.


1. List three tools you can use to influence the visual impact that you make when meeting a new person.

2. Explain the concept: "For the customer, you are the company."

3. Describe the impact that clothing, grooming and manners have on the wearer.

4. What is the reason we wear uniforms?

5. Explain the expression: "You can't afford to wait for a second positive first impression"
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Author:Michael, Angie
Publication:Best Impressions in Hospitality
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Next Article:Chapter 2 Professional dress for men and women.

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