People always talk about the importance of first impressions, but “last impressions” are almost more important. The “last impression” you give a customer is your last chance to either impress and delight them, or disappoint and frustrate them.

For example, my wife and I recently bought a new (used) car. Because it is a used car, for some reason it only came with one key. So now we’re constantly forgetting who has the car key, forgetting where we left it, accidentally walking out to the car without the car key and then having to turn around and get it, etc. It’s rather frustrating, to say the least.

The dealership where we bought this car has handled this situation very poorly. They could have easily given us a new car key the day we drove off the lot, but they’re dragging their feet. First they said that a new car key would be coming in the mail after they got their paperwork cleared up, and then they said there wasn’t another key after all, but we could come back and get a free key made (the dealership is 3 hours from where we live). Then they said we could go to our local dealership and pay $60 for a new key.

Needless to say, we have not gotten a positive “last impression” of this car dealership.

Sure, we could afford the $60 to get a new key made, but it’s the principle of the thing: we spent a lot of money on this car (at a time when not many people are buying cars), and instead of doing the right thing for the customer, this dealership is nickel-and-diming us.

What could they have done differently?

  1. They could have given us an extra key the day we bought the car. They could have said: “Hey, I realize you’ve only got one key to this car – how about we cut you a new one right now, so you can each have a key of your own when you drive home? And how about we throw in some new floor mats while we’re at it?” The result: We would have left that day feeling really happy about our new car, and we would have known that all the loose ends were tied up, with no annoying errands to run, and instead of complaining I would have written this blog post about how awesome the dealership was and how everyone should buy a car from them.
  2. They could have given us a coupon to use at the local dealership. They could have said: “Sorry for the miscommunication about the car key. Here’s a free coupon that you can take to get a key made at your local dealership, and they’ll send us the bill. And since we know you have to take time out of your busy schedule to drive to the dealership to get this done, here’s a $20 gift card.” The result: We would have gotten a happy little surprise from the dealership (how often does that happen?) and we would have told all our friends about it on Facebook.

I’m a loyal car buyer. My family once bought six cars in a row from the same car salesman. When you treat us right, we’ll keep coming back for multiple high-dollar purchases. But now, because this dealership gave me such a negative “last impression,” I’m not inclined to trust them or buy from them ever again.

Are your company’s “last impressions” winning you repeat business and creating more loyal customers, or are they driving customers away? Creating a happy “last impression” might be the cheapest and most cost-effective investment you can make.