A good client experience and a good theatrical performance have a lot in common, according to Jasmin Bergeron, director of the MBA program in financial services at l’Université du Québec à Montréal.

“If you take theatre lessons, the first thing they’ll tell you is to start strong and finish strong,” Bergeron says. “The first moments are very important.”

A client’s opinion of your professionalism begins as soon as he or she steps into your office and encounters your staff.

Bergeron provides three ways to ensure those first few minutes on your premises leave a positive impression with your clients:

1. Greet your client
A proper greeting is key to a good first impression. Without a greeting, Bergeron says, your client will feel ignored and unimportant.

It can be frustrating to walk into the office of a financial services practice and see staff talking among themselves and failing to acknowledge the visitor.

A staff member should be available to greet the client by name if possible and offer a refreshment such as water or coffee. This way, your client will feel as if he or she is being cared for.

2. Exceed wait-time expectations
Have your staff avoid telling your clients the actual amount of time they are expected to wait, Bergeron says. He suggests adding a minute or two.

Bergeron tells of visiting Walt Disney World in Florida, where he saw signs announcing hour-long line-ups for rides. When Bergeron timed the wait, he found it took only 45 minutes. Others were just happy that “60 minutes” had passed so quickly.

When you add a few extra minutes to the wait-time estimate, your client will perceive that time has flown by and will not mind having waited.

3. Make waiting worthwhile
It is not uncommon to walk into a waiting room and see TVs tuned to a 24-hour news channel. While the news may keep clients occupied, it’s not much fun to watch. And the sound can be jarring for those trying to read.

In his work, Bergeron has observed that some financial institutions play comedy shows that focus on pranks. Because the gags are visual, staff can keep the volume down and still keep clients entertained. Bergeron adds that staff in these offices were happy to see their clients laughing.

Another typical waiting room routine is to provide magazines for browsing. Bergeron suggests keeping a photocopier nearby, so your clients can copy stories or recipes they find interesting. Clients will feel that they are getting something out of the time they spend waiting.

Another way to keep clients occupied is to have them fill out a questionnaire. Include questions about topics your clients would like to discuss with you, with a checklist containing suggestions such as insurance, education planning and buying a home.