I am a keyboard warrior. Not necessarily by choice, but rather by circumstance. I’ve worked as a PA and Office Manager across the Pharmaceutical, Healthcare and now Foodservice industry since 2011. In recent years I’ve found myself in the online space where first impressions with clients happen over live chat, email or phone. A heart-warming smile, re-assuring eye contact or ice breaking banter that can take a first impression from anonymous to amiable aren’t afforded to online communication. I’ve had to master the fine art of digital first impressions so here are my tips on first impressions online: How PAs virtually greet business.

Who needs to make a digital first impression?

Digital first impressions are made in our personal and professional lives every day. From someone scanning your LinkedIn or Instagram profile, to the first touch point with a client over live chat or email, digital first impressions are often more common than face to face encounters. They can happen simultaneously and have no time constraints. Try comparing 20 emails, 15 live chats and 15 profile views to 50 face to face first impressions in one day!

My personal experience as a PA, EA and Admin Professional in the digital age has taught me several important aspects of how to best communicate my character, professionalism and value by digital means when a face to face first impression isn’t possible.

Be available

The best first impression when it comes to a professional digital encounter is availability. As PAs or Admins, there’s no need to be fashionably late to a conversation. Eagerness to be responsive is appreciated and can establish immediate respect and authority.

“I respect your time, and I manage my time effectively.”

In my case, this means being available and responsive on live chat, phone and email. It’s important for me to set proper hours and communicate these effectively. Identify a personal “Service Level Agreement” and stick to it. If you will be away from your desk or unavailable to make that digital first impression within your defined SLA, be proactive in letting people know when they can expect to hear back from you.

Be personable and approachable

Now that responsiveness is established, let’s get to the interaction. As of now, you are largely anonymous and it’s your job to translate a personal connection through a digital medium. Body language, facial expressions, and even tone of voice aren’t at your disposal to convey a feeling, so you must become a master of words.

Start early on by using first names and seize the opportunity to make an immediate impression. Sounds simple enough, but many of us are trained to be overly professional when it comes to written communication. I find early on personalisation and conveying approachability helps make my digital first impression effective. Contacts immediately understand who they’re talking to (me, Amie Harbron, Executive Assistant at XYZ) and get the impression that I have the right level of authority and knowledge to help address their needs.

“You’ve reached the right person and I have the capacity and authority to help you.”

In the age of chatbots, template responses and artificial intelligence it’s especially important to convey early on that you’re human. Live chat allows for a more colloquial tone, while email benefits from a fine balance between human-to-human conversation and traditional professionalism. It’s OK to add a personal touch (I hope you enjoyed the long holiday weekend. We finally caught some sunshine!) but don’t get too comfortable and lose your authority (I polished off a few bottles of chardonnay in the garden!). You get the picture …

Proactively reach out

Digital first impressions don’t always need to be initiated by the other party. While I leave cold calls and emails to the Sales team, it’s my job to be proactive on live chat.

“Thank you for showing interest in what we do. I’m here if you need to ask anything.”

Technology obviously plays a big role in this, but it’s easy to set up on your own website. Identify an appropriate time (10 seconds, IMHO) to proactively reach out to people browsing your website. A non-invasive chat box will pop up with a predefined message (and, yes, MY name!). You can decide if certain pages warrant different messages or time delays, but the main idea goes back to my initial tips of being available and approachable.

Follow these core guidelines and you’ll be off on the right digital foot when it comes to making a first impression online. How do you make a memorable and effective digital first impression? Do you find yourself able to translate your character and value into digital form?

Amie Harbron is an Executive Assistant at OfficeServe, an online platform that helps PAs, EAs and Office Admins order food online for office meetings. Amie has the unique position of both working as an EA and supporting other Admin Professionals in organising business meetings. She has experience working in various industries including Pharmaceuticals, Healthcare, and now FoodServes.

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