Male getting dressed for work

Dress better than your customers

It may improve your interpersonal relationships

Written by Dr. Shaun Ridley FAIM
2 minute read
Male getting dressed for work

Mirroring is an interpersonal tactic that increases the likelihood of you connecting well with other people.

It is based on the assumption that we like people who are like us.

So if you can mirror aspects of the other person such as tone and speed of speech, some non-verbals and use similar language, then the other person is more likely to feel comfortable.

How you dress when meeting a customer, client or stakeholder is one conspicuous way in which you can mirror the other person.

An easy way to think about this is to consider an extreme example.

If you were meeting with a construction worker straight after their shift whilst they are still wearing their high-vis gear and you appear wearing an evening gown or tuxedo, then you’re both going to feel very uncomfortable and the likelihood of rapport is slim.

However, consider a situation where you are meeting a client in their office.

From previous meetings, you know they tend to wear a corporate uniform of a pale blue shirt/blouse and dark trousers. By choosing to wear something of similar tones, with similar levels of formality, you begin the process of matching or mirroring.

If nothing else, you take away a potential negative by being completely out of alignment with what they are wearing.

As an overarching rule, try to dress slightly better than your customer rather than slightly worse. By doing so, you show respect to them and indicate the importance of the relationship.

By dressing worse than your customer, you signal that these impressions are not important to you – potentially a costly mistake.

Inside the organisation, use your supervisor as a guide to how you should dress. They should be setting the standard and you would be wise to follow their lead.

If you are the supervisor, recognise all your staff are looking to you for guidance.

One more small step in the next 24 hours

Check your diary before you decide what to wear for the day. Obviously, important occasions signal you should dress better than on other days.

But also look at who you are meeting with – especially if they are external customers.

What should you wear that would make them feel most comfortable, yet still present a professional image that represents your personal and organisational brand well and respects them as an important customer?