I’ve been having a lot of conversations with businesses recently about different projects and how to move them forward.  Never forget to make the “end user interface”- what the customer first sees, and how they interact with your business- as easy and friendly as possible.

I call these Threshold Experiences- or as my Mom used to say, using the old chestnut of “You only get one chance to make a first impression.”  When you walk into a retail space, someone’s office, home, or even pull up their website, what is your first impression?  Is it a welcoming place, or is it confusing?  Do you know what to do when you get there? Is it someplace that invites you to explore further, or just keep on moving down the street?

For example, my husband is a doctor.  He works for a hospital as one of their staff physicians.  He doesn’t have any choice about where his office is, but he does have some say in the office staff.  If his office staff greets people, treats them well, and handles all the annoying appointment and paperwork stuff well, the patients will assume that this is a well-run, in control establishment long before they ever see my husband in the exam room.  If the staff up front is constantly taking personal calls, ignoring the patients, making them wait longer than necessary, snapping gum, or other behaviors like that, the patients will be annoyed by the time they see my husband and will assume that he doesn’t pay attention to details because the staff up front doesn’t seem to.  These are subtle, logical conclusions that influence the doctor-patient relationship, all based on how the front office operates, which probably has little to do with the quality of the actual care.  the more the threshold experience – The User Interface- runs smoothly, efficiently and in as welcoming a manner as possible, the better the overall relationship is likely to go.

In everything from relationships to business to education, the threshold experiences are critical.  We tell people a lot about who we are by these up-front experiences, and what to expect from us.  The pressure is on not only to deliver excellence, but to deliver authentic, real experiences as well.  You don;t want to be all flash over substance, or have a gazillion dollar experience and deliver cut-rate products behind closed doors.  the front end and back end have to match.   What You See is What You Get, also known as WYSIWYG.

Remember that small tweeks to the up front experience will have wide ranging effects over all.  Paint your front door and your house looks newer from the street.  Clean up those front beds and the front sidewalk, and increase the price of the house- people assume if you take care of the outside, you take care of the inside as well.  It’s subtle, but it’s the general assumptions we make from what we see.  Those first impressions are critical and you need to make sure you give them your best right out of the box.

First chapters, first few slides, handshakes, book covers-  We may know we can’t always judge a book by its cover, but this is what largely tells us what to expect inside, so make those first few things as tempting and intriguing as possible to draw your customers and their attention in further.  Then you have a real chance of wowing them with all you have to offer, but you have to capture that attention first.

Remember- it all begins at the front door.