Ever gone to a business where you just clicked with the staff? You opened up to them, let them know what you needed/wanted/were hoping for, and something just worked. You genuinely had a good time. It almost feels magical. Ever had that happen? Since I’m a sucker for great customer service and seek out places that provide it, I’ve thankfully had quite a few. And I love it. I literally remember it for years. And so does pretty much everyone else. But why?
Because you’re making a genuine, emotional connection with a person, not a “business representative” or “someone who’s trying to sell me something.” You’re just having a conversation with someone who seems to care, to listen, to have your best interest at heart. And even though you know it helps their business for them to act that way, it doesn’t feel fake for a minute.
And what business doesn’t want that? For their customers to genuinely enjoy their time working with you, and you make more money? Score! Even better, making an emotional connection matters even more than customer satisfaction when it comes to providing customer value. You can read even more about it here in the 2016 Harvard Business Review article “An Emotional Connection Matters More Than Customer Satisfaction” if you’d like. But basically, like marketers have long known, we need to make customers feel important, unique, and that their lives have meaning when they interact with our businesses. Of course the business type will need to meet up with the correct emotional connection, as most grocery stores don’t need to provide a thrilling feeling. But, they do need to make them feel secure – in the quality and honesty behind the food that they provide. Take a quick look at their list of high-impact motivators and it may help you realize some of the points you should be working on in your own design business.
Now, this may seem like a bit of a heavy subject, but it’s worth delving into. When you’re designing someone’s home, it’s very touchy business. You’re seeing how they live, and it may not be very pretty. Aesthetically, financially, and even emotionally. They’re letting you into a VERY private part of their lives and it’s your responsibility to tread lightly. It’s your responsibility to make them feel important, certainly unique just like the design you’re providing them with, and secure in the fact that you’re using their money responsibly. You’re entrusted with a lot as a designer and making an emotional connection is key.
But how? To start, let the customer know as much information as possible, from the beginning. This doesn’t mean you have to share trade secrets, but the more relevant information you can provide, the better (again, only relevant information-no need to let them know every phone call you make to vendors, contractors, etc.). Let them know what setbacks to expect, let them know what challenges may arise and how you’ll handle them, let them know what worries you’ve known customers in the past to have and then calm those possible worries. When they’re excited, be excited! Celebrate with them, bring over champagne, flowers, or a bakery treat! When they’re stressed or worried, sit and talk with them. Really listen to them. Even if you’re short on time. And don’t charge them for it if possible. Unless someone truly and repeatedly is taking advantage of your time, spend 15 extra minutes explaining an issue without charging. It’s just good business. And when they’re unsure of whether a design is right and you’re sure it is, take the time to explain that this design is unique because you understand how unique they are and that they can handle this amount of design. They’re bold, interesting, and engaging – and they deserve a home that reflects that!
Small businesses don’t have the time, money, or training power to provide the same type of customer experience that a large corporation does, but in many ways that’s an advantage. Corporations spend millions of dollars, trying to recreate the experience that a small shop can. You can get to know everyone one of your customers on a personal level. So do just that, and use that to both your customer’s and your advantage. Become genuinely interested in them as a person, and they’ll become genuinely connected to your business.
Let me know in the comments below any time you’ve made an emotional connection with a business!