The foundation of a great business is more than bricks and mortar — it’s built on customer goodwill and stellar service. Much of that foundation is laid in a single instant: the customer’s first impression of your company.

Just how important is the customer’s first impression? Generally, the fewer chances you have to do something, the more important the chances you do have become. You only get one shot at a first impression, and they are hard to forget.

We can always remember the first time we met someone who had a significant impact on our lives. If you want customers to become loyal, you should give them a great story to tell when people ask “How did you find that company?” That's what the first impression is all about.

Where do those first impressions start? These days, most potential customers initially encounter your company online. This means your website might be the first stop. It has to offer pertinent information and convenient ways to interact with your business.

Often, businesses can share some common misconceptions about building their online presence. They think that the “normal” of doing business online is the best way. Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn't mean you should do it too. For example, people tend to clutter their home pages with lots of words and links to various places. It feels a bit like a maze. Follow the (polite version of the) KISS rule: “Keep It Stupid Simple.”

The cardinal rule of online interactions should be usability. Make it easy and clear for customers to do business with you. Follow Donald Miller’s “grunt test.” Within three seconds, customers should be able to:

  • Tell what you do.
  • How it makes their life better.
  • What they need to do to buy from you.

If it takes longer than three seconds, you're losing customers and losing income.

When the Phone Rings

Online interactions are popular, but customers will still call. The phone will still ring at your office. Have you considered the kind of impression your business is creating with telephone practices?

The first step to making a good impression on the telephone: Be personally engaged with customers when speaking to them. It's easy to sound like you would rather be doing something else or to focus so much on what you can't do for the customer that they’ll hang up. The solution is simple. On a personal level, do things you love during the work day so that you have more positive energy. As a result of your positive energy, customers will like talking to you more. Also, focus on what you can do for customers. Replace all the "no" words in your conversations with "yes" words.    

To help improve your conversation skills, record and listen to your phone calls weekly. Simply having the self-awareness of what you sound like on the phone will lead to improvement!

Clear Messaging

What can businesses like yours get wrong when it comes to online marketing? The messaging. How does your company talk about both itself and the value it provides?

Online marketing efforts can be derailed by being unsure of your actual message or being unable to communicate it clearly. The foundation of all great marketing is the message. Is it clear who you are targeting? Are you clearly communicating the benefits about your service to potential customers? Don't confuse people.

Apply your own grunt test. Be able to answer three questions simply and clearly:

  • What do you really do?
  • How can you make the lives of your customers better?
  • What are you actually selling?

Overcoming Growth Barriers

Great first impressions can establish the basis for an excellent customer relationship. The next step is capitalizing on those great impressions and turning them into actual transactions. Online marketing and chat services can help open the door for those new customers.

Once the first contact is made, speed is vital for success. When it comes to capturing leads online, you have to do it fast. The longer it takes for someone to actually become a lead, the more customers you are losing. If you're going to capture leads online, do it quickly.

Think of a row of identical businesses side by side. If a potential customer is walking by, decides to take a look in the first one and finds somebody waiting to help them, they’ll probably go ahead and buy a product or service. If not, they’ll try the next one, or the next, or the next until they get immediate assistance.

This is where the speed and convenience of online chat services can make all the difference in the world for your business. Once a potential customer finds your website, a chat service can offer a quick and easy way to engage them.

Live chat services provide one option, but it requires significant in-office staffing or contracting with a service provider that serves potentially hundreds or thousands of businesses at the same time with a finite staff.

Another option, powered by innovations in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), is using cost-effective AI-chatbots to have basic conversations with people and get them taken care of more quickly. The technology can be used to convert website visitors into leads and get them on the phone with your team faster.

AI-powered chatbots can start a conversation with every customer that lands on your website by giving them the option to chat, leave a review, call, or text you. The whole idea is to convert more website visitors into leads faster. Since it's automated, there isn't the need to hire a remote customer service provider to respond to all your chats. That means less overhead and more bandwidth for communicating with customers.

Make It About Convenience

In the end, the first impressions that potential customers have of your business and how you follow up with them makes the difference between making money and burning money. Give customers the power to engage with your business in the manner they choose, make it easy for them to understand what you offer, and make it quick and easy to interact with you. Consumers prefer convenience over everything else! Make the experience easy for them regardless of the technology that is involved.