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Miss Price on First Impressions

At 9:30 am, Neicy Price surveys the lobby with an anthropologist’s eye, clocking everyone’s needs in real time. Without missing a beat, she strides over and smooths the hair — and the nerves — of a new hire on her first day. Then she locks a longtime client in a bear hug and asks about his kids. When signing for a package, she serves up coffee and a smile to the delivery guy pulling a double shift. Equal parts admin, accounting coordinator, den mother and front desk dynamo, Neicy is the best cure for a case of the Mondays.

“When people call our offices, I want them to see my smile over the phone,” says Neicy. After 30 years in customer service settings ranging from corrections to marketing, Neicy’s smile instantly puts people at ease. In a culture that chooses quick emojis over quality connections, Neicy makes the personal professional, and loves her job because of it. I recently sat down with Neicy and asked her to spill the secrets of her success. Whether you’re a newly-minted grad or decades deep into your career, her tactics will keep you on top of your game:

Be approachable

First impressions, according to Neicy, are everything, whether you’re working the front desk or the crowd at a convention. Lead with a smile when you’re interacting with someone, and your face and tone will relax them, too. Maintain eye contact, even in trying moments, and that sense of connection will calm the conversation.

Equity for all

Whether you’re talking to a courier or a CEO, every person — and every conversation — deserves equal weight. Classism is a career-killer, so don’t rank people’s importance by their rung on the ladder. Kindness is a universal language that’ll keep you winning in the office and in life.

Neicy Price, staff member at High Rock Studios

Make friends

When you’re working with the public, business IS personal, so favor friendliness over formality. “When you meet someone for the first time, don’t say their name, learn their name,” Neicy advises, making the distinction between hearing a name and committing it to memory. After introductions, ask people casual questions about their work and their passions, and they’ll likely follow suit. These exchanges transform mundane Jane into multidimensional Jane, who rides the unicycle on weekends. And a little humor (even at your own expense) can make a colleague or client feel like part of the family.

Be on time

While Neicy keeps it light, she keeps it moving, and you should, too. Attending meetings on time — and ending them in a punctual manner —- shows respect for people’s schedules. Whether you’re crunching numbers or the last bites of your lunch, school yourself in timeliness (or Neicy will).

Rely on reconnaissance

Neicy’s powers of deduction make James Bond look like a lightweight. “Situational awareness is the key to great service,” Neicy observes. “If a client enters the lobby and seems eager to chat, I take cues from their level of engagement.” But if someone is fixated on their phone, Neicy makes them feel welcome, but gives them room to breathe. Read people’s expressions to gauge what they want (or don’t).

While Neicy is an expert at the personal encounter, she’s uncomfortable boasting about her talents, which is why I’m blogging on her behalf today. We’re lucky to have Neicy as our timekeeper, taskmaster, first line of contact and friend. If you enter every situation with an open heart and a belly laugh at the ready, success is sure to follow.