That First Impression Better Be Good


(By John Shomby) It’s been said that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. The first time is the only time. I recently experienced how true that is after a vacation stay in Destin, Florida. I was left with three very distinct impressions.

We had just arrived at the pool area at our Airbnb condo complex after a 6-and-a-half-hour drive and decided to walk up to the pool bar/restaurant and see if we could get a quick dinner after our long trip. The individuals I encountered absolutely avoided any eye contact with me or my party for an extraordinarily, extended length of time.

We made three specific attempts to get their attention but to no avail. They seemed to be more concerned with filling ice containers, etc. We then decided to go to the seating area where we were greeted after 15 more minutes by an employee who said our server would be with us shortly. We left 20 minutes after that!

Our next stop was a highly recommended restaurant on Destin’s main drag. We get there without a reservation. I walk in to ask the length of the wait time. That took 15 minutes just to get an answer and find out they were booked for over two hours. Through all of this, this person had the personality of a couch. We left wondering why this place was recommended.

Finally, we get to another restaurant in the same strip, walk in, and we are immediately greeted with a huge smile and welcome. They were filled up, but the greeter summoned a server to get another table to fill an area near the front and we were seated in less than five minutes. He apologized, by the way, for not having identically colored chairs for the setting. The experience was even uphill from there with a wonderfully pleasant server who handled every question we had with patience and a genuine smile. 

It was very apparent that everyone at this restaurant was trained to be intentional with the customers. We each felt special and will readily return the next time because of that. 

This got me to thinking about something we radio programmers don’t consider as often as we used to in this age of digital media and online commerce. How are OUR promotion and programming personnel interacting with listeners at our appearances, station events, and concerts? Are we training them all about a good first impression? It was apparent that two of the places I visited either did not have any customer service training or very little. Both were big enough businesses to be able to afford the time it would take.

Do we visit these events to see how our staff is handling each listener interaction and do we coach talent and promo personnel following up on our observations? Is our personnel welcoming every listener with a smile and leaving them with a “thank you” or are they sitting in a chair by the promo table with their faces in their phones? Ask yourself these questions and be honest with the answers.

Regardless, once per quarter at least, you (and your marketing/promo director) should conduct a refresher course on leaving a good first impression including attire, posture, direct eye contact, and intentionality. With a younger generation who may not be as well-versed in people skills (but very well-versed in technology), we must take the necessary time to work with each individual to teach them the finer points of positive interaction/customer service.

Two places lost me and my friends as customers. We never went back to either. You don’t want that happening with any listener. You get only one chance at it. Make that first impression count.

Based in Nashville, TN, John Shomby is the owner and CEO of Country’s Radio Coach. He is focused on coaching and mentoring artists, radio programmers, and on-air talent to help them grow and develop inside the radio station and the industry. Reach John at [email protected] and 757-323-1460. Read John’s Radio Ink archives here.


  1. And it’s all about teams. Example: You have a show on X radio station and you meet someone and invite them to tune in. They’ve never heard of your station or your show but they assure you they’ll listen in. A few days go by and they happen to tune in, but not to your show, instead listening to someone else on the station. That person isn’t the greatest and makes mistakes or is an automated day part. The person you invited to listen doesn’t enjoy it and that becomes the impression he or she has of your station AND your show! They never listen again.


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