Thin-Slicing: Are we making a positive first impression?

According to Malcolm Gladwell who, citing several studies, stated we do something called “thin-slicing”, which is making an accurate evaluation of a person based on knowing them for only a few seconds. Naturally, being human, we thin-slice whenever we meet someone new, to make sense of something as quickly as possible. Since the industry relies on hospitality and great customer service, do we consider what is the first impression our customers get? If our ambassadors are not emanating a positive first impression, is there something deeper we can infer from this?

Naturally, humans are built to size each other up quickly, and understandably people tend to get attached to their primary impressions of others and find it very difficult to change an opinion they have already formed. It is generally accepted that it takes circa seven seconds to make a first impression and they hold a considerable significance in social interactions due to their impact on thought processes and following behaviours.

Undoubtedly, employees in hospitality organisations are sole brand ambassadors making them invaluable in a positive memorable experience, so the question is what first impression do we give off? In psychology, heuristics are efficient, simple rules that are either learned or instilled by evolutionary processes, which we use as a base of knowledge as we come across new people and situations to make quick judgments. With this in mind, we must ask what heuristics are being expelled by employees. Do employees’ welcome guests with warm facial expressions and a happy demeanour that emanates to the guest? To be successful within the industry, there is a high need for employee engagement as engaging customers enables the organisation to flourish as customers receive the best service possible. It is generally accepted that if the employees are happy and welcoming, it makes the hospitality experience all more positive for guests.

As the primary ambassadors of the business, the impression employees give off is imperative as it may affect whether customers decide to visit again. Employee engagement is important in any business, and according to Gallup (2020) companies with higher employee engagement had an increase of 21% in terms of productivity compared to those with lower employee engagement. Involved employees typically stand out as top performers, consistently demonstrating an inclination to exceed expectations. This not only leaves a positive impression on supervisors but also resonates with customers through their proactive approach. We must ask if employees are struggling to be the warm and welcoming face that meets customers, are they simply unhappy in their work? Might centring our efforts on cultivating a content and motivated workforce hold the key to enhancing our first impressions, thereby creating a lasting impact that encourages them to become loyal, returning customers?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Written by Izzy McHattie, EP Business in Hospitality