In his best-selling book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell finds that first impressions—whether professional or personal—happen in a matter of seconds. Individuals connect with other people and companies based on their initial perception. Further, getting beyond that experience is nearly impossible once the connection is made. Indeed, research shows that first impressions even overrule facts in the lasting perceptions a person has of another person or business.
In a Matter of Seconds
Twenty-years ago, first impressions meant the first human-to-human interaction—either voice or face to face. But technology created a complete disruption. It started with the Age of the Internet and then expanded to include any number of engagement channels, including through different devices.
The amount of time it takes someone to form a digital first impression is just a fast—if not more so—than through voice and face to face. Indeed, studies show that a website’s first impression takes less than five seconds. And while conscious decisions may take a bit longer, subconscious decisions may even take place in less those five seconds.
All Business Sizes
When it comes to the size of a business, what applies to large or even medium-size companies also applies to small businesses. Further, outside of a handful of more expensive engagement channels such as television or radio ads, the breadth of factors a small business must consider is virtually the same.
Small businesses that understand how to leverage the full range of both traditional and digital engagement channels generate better outcomes than those that do not.
The reality is that prospects and customers want to interact with brands anytime, anywhere, and on any device. The proof is in the results: digitally engaged small businesses are more than twice as likely as those with low levels or no digital engagement to be growing.
A Checklist of 9 Factors
Tackling these can be a daunting challenge for a small business that is already stretched in meeting existing customer needs. Understanding the basic checklist and turning to third-party providers for help in the right places can go a long way for a small business. The following are the most important factors a small business needs to ensure it has checked off.
- A company’s name, logo, tagline, and core messaging must resonate with prospects and customers. They must exude trust and confidence to engender a connection.
- Seventy-five percent of people—B2C and B2B—make judgments about a company’s credibility based on the design of the website. Those that are perceived as great looking are also perceived as usable and trustworthy.
- Social Media. Social media is a must-have for businesses. Prospects and customers will inevitably engage with companies through their social channels. For example, 80 percent of consumers look at online reviews before making purchase decisions.
There are a few quick tips that will make social engagement effective for small businesses: a) connect social with CRM systems to track engagement with prospects and customers, b) integrate social into other channels such as the website, emails, and other marketing and customer service platforms, c) use social to generate leads by monitoring and responding to prospect buying signals, and d) leverage social to monitor and respond to potential customer service issues.
- A company is perceived as a thought leader when it provides prospects and customers with content that engages and educates. And because every prospect and customer does not have the same requirements and pain points, a one-size-fits-all content approach may not always work for a small business. Providing prospects and customers with a personalized content experience, whereby they are offered content based on their online behavior and known business requirements can make that first impression even more impressive.
- An overwhelming number of customers search the Web before making a purchasing decision. For B2B searches, prospects do not engage vendor until they are 70 percent through the decision-making process. It therefore is critical that companies are found. Websites must be search friendly and have SEO (search engine optimization) capabilities such as domain redirection, a site map, a unique title, a phone number and local address, among other elements.
- Thirteen percent of the world’s population will access the Internet from their smartphones only this year. That represents more than 1 billion people. Whether it is mobile or tablet devices or even wearables, B2C and B2B customers assume they will have an omnichannel experience.
Here, small businesses need to ensure their websites have responsive design for desktop, tablet, and mobile engagement. They may even want to offer an app—which is different than a mobile website—in certain instances.
- Small businesses are not always available to take calls from customers. And hiring a dedicated employee or team of employees to field inbound calls may not be the most effective—in terms of results and cost—strategy.
Going with a third-party provider such as Davinci Live Receptionist Service allows small businesses to have the voice of a big company. Able to take both inbound sales and service calls, the Davinci Live Receptionist Service team provides not one dedicated individual but a dedicated team that can scale to meet new business requirements.
- Live Chat. The online window to win or lose a prospect or customer is less than 90 seconds—and technology disruption continues to shrink this window. While offering them customized content and a voice option, this often is not enough. Millennials (or the “Digital-Only Generation) prefer to engage with each other and their vendors through digital channels. Here, more than 75 percent prefer live web chat instead over voice.
Like voice, this is another area where small businesses should consider a third-party provider. Davinci Live Web Chat enables a small business to leverage the same team of dedicated experts providing the Live Receptionist Service when a prospect or customer opts to chat. And if the need arises to transfer the engagement from live web chat to voice, it is a seamless experience.
- Analytics and Business Intelligence. The fact that prospects and customers engage with small businesses across a number of different channels and devices means the magnitude of data captured from those interactions increases significantly. But this data is only good if it is used. Understanding that information in both aggregate and segmented forms can provide valuable insights on the first impressions prospects and customers gain and how best to improve those.
Davinci’s approach is to look at data across each of the different engagement channels—from web, to voice, to live web chat—and to provide actionable insights to our customers. Our integrated Live Receptionist Service and Live Web Chat approach makes this a seamless experience. Davinci Live Receptionist Service and Live Web Chat First impressions count. This is why we created Davinci Live Receptionist Service and Live Web Chat. Check out how Live Receptionist Service and Live Web Chat might be a fit for your business.
 A study by Princeton psychologists claims that first impressions take even less than a few seconds (Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, “First Impressions: Making Up Your Mind After a 100-Ms Exposure to a Face,” Psychology Science 17 [July, 2006], 592-98). Rather, it finds judgments are made in a matter of a tenth of a second.
 “First Impressions: When Appearances Matter,” Society for Personality and Social Psychology,” February 13, 2014.
“Connected Small Businesses: How Australian Small Businesses Are Growing in the Digital Economy,” Deloitte Access Economics, 2013.
“Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility,” Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, June 2012.
“Global Mobile 2014 Survey,” IDG Global Solutions, January 24, 2015.
“Connecting with Customers,” LivePerson, November 19, 2013.