An amazing client experience doesn’t always come from businesses that are glitzy or glammy or luxurious. Sometime they’re in an industry that doesn’t require a high end level of service, but they choose to give one anyways. Sometimes they’re from the most “boring” or “typical” or even “dreaded” places you visit everyday.
I’ve mentioned some of my greatest client experiences with some of the most “typical” or “mundane” businesses before, a tree cutting company, Whole Foods, the Honda dealer we bought our cars at (note, cars, not car. We of course went back to buy our second car there, because it was such a great and easy experience) our local DMV (I know, shocking, right?!) and the real estate agent we used to sell my mom’s house. None of these are the types of businesses that you would assume heavily invest and pay attention to the client experience. But they did. And they do. Then last week I encountered yet another incredible client experience from a place that’s on most people’s “Most Dreaded” list. The dentist.
A pediatric dentist to be exact. It was Weston’s first visit to the dentist and to be honest I was pretty terrified about what would go down. Weston has a very hefty amount of sass, independence, and will power. So, I was a little trepidatious about taking him. Would he refuse to open his mouth? Would he swat at them as they approached him with the toothbrush? Would he yell “No! I’m not going to show you my teeth!!!” so loud that two doors down they could hear his screams? I had no idea what was going to go down. I only knew I was petrified.
10 Principles of an Impeccable Client Experience
Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. Why? Well, probably for two reasons. God was watching over me that day. And, that dentist had coordinated a client experience so incredible that it was hard to not have an amazing time. Seriously. At a dentist.
Now usually dentists are a place of dread. Of avoidance. A little bit like the DMV. You have to let someone awkwardly close to your face, that you barely know or don’t know at all, so they can scrape, drill, and clean. And then have to listen as they tell you that you need to floss more, or that you might have a cavity, or need a root canal. I mean seriously, it’s a tough place to go. Most people just accept that it’s something they have to put up with, and just begrudgingly go. Or, sometimes, don’t go. For a very long time. Ahem, maybe I once went 8 years without going. But, sometimes, someone, realizes the dread, and turns it on its head. To create a magical little thirty minute experience.
This pediatric dentist figured out what I call, The 10 principles of an impeccable client experience. Maybe he studied the topic of client experience relentlessly. Maybe he hired a consultant. Or maybe he worked with someone else prior that taught him their ways. Whatever it was, it was amazing. And you better bet I will never be going anywhere else until this office closes down. Because truly, it really was a magical little thirty minute experience. And today I want to begin to breakdown what made it so. What 10 things they did so impeccably well.
But don’t worry, we’ll split this post into two. It’s soo much information that it needs to be divided in half so you have time to digest it all.
1. Prepare Your Customers/Set Expectations
When I called to set up an appointment, they took the usual information that any dentist would. Name, insurance information, is this the child’s first visit, etc. But, at the end they let me know that to achieve a shorter wait time I could go onto their website and fill out the forms beforehand. So, I did that. And it came true, when we walked in, we signed a HIPPA form, waited for maybe two minutes, and then were called back to a room.
So, I knew that if I forgot to fill out the forms beforehand, it was ok. But, the wait time would be longer as I would have to sit and fill everything out. Rather than doing it whenever I had a free moment at home. They had taken the time to prepare me and set the expectation that if I would like a shorter wait time, I would need to perform a few tasks first.
The same goes with your design clients, let them know that if they want to make the best use of their time, particularly within the initial consult, they’ll need to prepare some items first. And then, send a confirmation email with that same information and have a very clear checklist of everything that needs to be prepared before a meeting just as a helpful reminder.
For the next stage of preparation, the office sent out a series of text reminders. One to let me know the appointment had been set. And then one reminder text a week out from the appointment, another two days out, and then the last one the day before. Now, to some, that might be a bit overkill. As a designer, one confirmation email and one meeting reminder email is sufficient. But, as dentists may suffer from frequent no shows. For them, multiple reminders makes sense.
2. Understand Your Customers Limitations/Stressors
You have to understand your customer’s limitations. Your specific group of customers. The dentist understood that with each visit he had two customers, the patient (a child), and the parent. And both parent and child needed to be in agreement that this was a good enough experience to return. How do you do that for this group of customers? Low wait time, every step of the way. We walked in, signed a HIPPA form, waited one or two minutes, and we were off through the process. And with every subsequent step in the process, there was again, little to no wait time. Total, there was maybe three collective minutes worth of “dead” time or wait time.
That meant, no time for Weston to get impatient, antsy, and into everything. And no time for me to feel stressed about the whole experience. They understood that for families, waiting around is one of the most stressful things there is. The child gets bored, then starts to get into everything, and the parent has to monitor and manage every move the child makes, while simultaneously praying that the waiting ends as soon as possible. So, they adjusted. They had learned how to schedule patients, and the process, so that wait times were basically eliminated. The result? Incredibly happy patients, and parents. And a very healthy bottom line.
Try to do the same with your clients. Figure out what about working with you can cause stress and displeasure, and try to eliminate it, or reduce it as much as possible. We covered this not too long ago in this post about accommodating client needs and capabilities. Think, are my clients busy professionals? How can I make the meeting as efficient as possible? A clear agenda? A very clear end time? Sharing the length of the meeting when you first schedule it? Letting them know what they can do to prepare for the meeting and thus shorten it?
Also think through this, do you also usually have more than one client? A husband and a wife? If so, is there a way to make sure you’re addressing the typical limitation or pain point for the husband and the wife? Research your own clients. Observe them. Listen to them. Make notes. What questions are typical for husbands to ask? What questions are typical for wives to ask? What are the their typical times of irritation? Study it all, then work through different solutions that you can put in place so typical irritations don’t arise.
3. Understand Your Customer’s Concerns
When you show clients that you understand them and their concerns, you quickly get a huge boost in their mind. Clients want to know that you understand what they’re going through. That you understand why they’re nervous or anxious or upset. And if you can do this before they even mention it, it’s an even bigger win.
For the dentist, this came in the form of letting Weston, and I, know what the next step in the process was. The entire time. When they would introduce a new tool, they would explain to me what they were doing. Then they would explain it to Weston in a way he could understand, and not be afraid. “Weston, now we’re going to tickle your teeth with this. Do you want it to tickle your finger first? Ok, tickle, tickle.” They did this every step of the way. They wanted to make sure we were both fully aware, and comfortable, with every thing that was happening so there would be as little resistance as possible. And it worked. Weston cooperated with every single thing they needed to do.
4. A Well Trained Staff
This is another one of those topics that we’ve touched on regularly, the importance of well trained and well informed employees. Because making sure your employees are continually well informed and well trained, is really one of those things that separate the good from the great. Sure, you can run a fairly successful business with employees who are “good enough.” They return most calls the same day. They are friendly most of the time on the phone. They share the correct information the majority of the time. But, you’re never going to reach, and maintain, greatness that way. Eventually customers will get tired of it and find someone who is consistently amazing.
But, once again, at this dentist’s office, every employee knew that process like the back of their hand. They knew what was expected of them. What the next step was. How to answer any questions that I had, and if they couldn’t answer them, who could. They had almost as much confidence and authority as the dentist himself. That’s what every employee should seem like at every business. They know of course that they are not the final deciding authority, that’s you, the boss, the principal designer, the owner. But, they do have enough knowledge, training, and confidence, to know that they can handle the vast majority of day to day issues and questions. Because you’ve spent a significant amount of time training them on how to handle them. And they know exactly what’s expected of them.
5. Every Moment was Planned
Planning out every moment is imperative, and something I spend a lot of time talking about in my consultations with designers. Every “typical” moment in your process with a client, needs to be heavily planned out. And written out, so you can make it abundantly clear to yourself and your employees, what the exact step of each each process is. No need to waste your creative thinking on what the next logical step should be with a client. You’ve got much better things to do, like finding that perfect chandelier, or finding that next big client.
Now, in a dentist’s office arguably, it is a shorter, more concise, and clearer, process than working as a designer. There are only a few steps in the process, and 95% of the process is completed within a 30 minute to 1 hour time span. But, still, it was all planned out. And, they realized that the entire experience wasn’t confined to the office. It actually started long before that, and ended far after that. The moment I located their site online, that was part of the client experience, the moment I called their office to set up the appointment, that was part of the experience, the reminder texts, all part of the experience.
And afterwards? They made sure that we loved the experience from beginning to end by sending us a link to a survey a few days afterward and an invitation to post a testimonial on Facebook or Google. We also received a thank you letter in the mail, signed by the dentist, rather than just a computer signature, and letting us know he was always there for more questions if we had them. And finally, an email with an invitation to vote on the movie that would be shown at the patient appreciation event. Every year the dentist’s office rents out a theater to entertain all of their patients and families and treat them to a free movie. Let’s just say, this is one INCREDIBLY WELL PLANNED OUT EXPERIENCE. He wants to make sure that not only are you a happy patient, and parent, now, you’re a happy one for life. And that you’ll be referring them to every single person you’ve come across. Which I have already.
Now of course, you don’t have to add all of these extra steps to your design process. But, you do need to add some of them, and realize that before you ever walk in a client’s door, or they walk into yours, they’ve already encountered a portion of your client experience. And even after you’ve done the reveal, they’ve paid the last few invoices, and the project is officially complete, the experience doesn’t have to end. It can go on and on and on (if you want it to), to ensure that that relationship stays alive and well. You can consider all of your clients, “current clients” rather than past clients. Or clients who you’ve worked with in the past.
Design Your Process with Success in Mind
No business delivers an impeccable client experience on accident. It cannot happen. It’s a very strategic part of their business model from the beginning. They realize that it’s as crucial to the success and health of their business as profitability is. Because in our current environment, there just aren’t any continually successful businesses that can ignore the importance of the client experience anymore. Instead businesses are starting to realize how crucial it is, and begin planning from the first moment they really start to build out their business idea.
Successful businesses also realize that the client experience isn’t separate from what they sell. In fact it’s a very specific and particular part of what they sell. The Ritz Carlton isn’t just selling a room to sleep in. They are selling a luxurious, pampered space for traveling professionals to relax and rejuvenate in. And you’re not just selling a beautiful space. You’re selling a dream fulfilled. A dream that one day clients could have someone that really understood what they needed, and that they could trust this person with their hopes and dreams to create a space that’s as beautiful and functional as they’ve always wanted. But to get there, to be able to do that, you must design your process with the client experience in mind. Design your process with success in mind. Because no business succeeds with a bunch of p-ed off clients.
If you’d like even more ideas on how to provide the kind of client service that gets you higher fees and profits, visit the Services page to find out more!