According to many studies on the subject, you’ve got fewer than 30 seconds to make an impression on someone. In business, this can mean the difference between losing, landing or keeping a customer. So, ask yourself, “What would impress me?” If the initial contact is by phone, then that impression is determined by the manner in which you handle the phone call.

- Do you answer the phone in a professional, business-like manner?

- Do you speak clearly and slowly enough so the listener has time to understand what you are saying?

- Do you allow the caller/customer to express the reason for the call? Do you interrupt, or do you let him/her fully express their thought or point?

- Do you immediately respond to the caller’s request or need? In trucking, most people calling to have you haul something need immediate action. If you have to get information or details, do you give the caller a time when you’ll get back to him/her with the answers?

- Do you speak with, not to, the person on the other end? Do you listen to what is said, and repeat any questions asked to be sure you understand the request?

- Do you use correct language? This is very important. Use of expletives or the latest street slang diminish your value to the customer/caller very quickly. Another area to consider is how you, the trucking business owner, handle cell phone business calls.

- Do you let all calls go to voice mail? In areas where using the cell phone while driving is permitted, keep conversations short and to the point. If the conversation requires more than a minute or two, wait to take the call until you can pull over. Nothing is more disconcerting for a customer than hearing a trucker blurt out his reaction to something another driver just did, instead of shipment information.

-Do you record a voice mail message that says you’re unavailable but will return the call as soon as possible? It’s easier to listen to a voice mail message to determine its level of importance and the best time to return the call when you’re not driving. For fax or email communications, here are some suggestions to help you make a good impression:

- Every fax should always have a cover sheet with the name of the person and company the fax is going to, your company name, your name, a contact phonenumber, and email address. It should also include your logo, with MC and DOT numbers listed below your carrier name.

- Mark its level of importance, special information that will help the recipient handle the contents of the fax, and the total number of pages in the fax. Check spelling and grammar before sending your fax or email.

You only have one chance to make a good first impression— whether by phone, fax or Internet. But to keep your valued customers, you need to consider the impression you are making first and foremost.