The other day I was in the parking lot of a local grocery store. A new Starbucks had just gone in at the corner of it, and I was stoked! This was in the exact spot my husband and I kept saying a Starbucks needed to go. There weren’t any in this direction for miles. So, I decided to celebrate our brilliance of knowing the best retail locations and pick myself up a latte. But when I approached, I saw a gate. There was no way for me to get in to the drive thru lane, or even the parking lot. So, what did I do? Left and went home.
When someone is dead set on a decision, they will usually work fairly hard to make sure that it’s fulfilled. However, if there is even a little bit of uncertainty, they often change their mind if the path to receiving what they want is too difficult.
I wanted a latte, accepted paying the money, and was excited. However, when I approached and realized that there was no way in from my angle, I left. If I would have continued with my quest, I would have had to either go all the way back to the other side of the parking lot, get on the main road, and then go into the one entrance of the Starbucks. Or, leave the parking lot at the exit closest to me, get on a main road, turn left at a stop light, then drive down far enough for the median to end, make a u-turn, and come back to get in. That’s way too much work for a decision that I’m not dead set on.
The same thing goes for your customers. Maybe they’re unsure about whether or not they need professional help, or if they should be spending the money, or if now is the right time, or if you’re the right designer or store for them. Make it easy for them. Make it as easy as possible for your customers to find a way to contact you, find out what your services are, purchase an item, find out how much you charge for a product, etc. Make it easy. This may be the single biggest success factor in managing your client’s experience with you.
A few years back the Harvard Business Review wrote an article showing results that have been found from simply making things easier for customers. The conclusion? It’s incredibly important, even more than “wowing” them. Not that giving your customers an incredible experience isn’t important and helpful, but possibly even more important is making it easy. It shows you care, it shows you understand them and their needs, and it respects everyone’s need to be as efficient as possible in their lives.
When a customer contacts you via email, respond quickly, directly and clearly answer the question they asked, and on the same media that they contacted you on. If they write to you on your contact form, don’t seek them out on Facebook. And certainly don’t make them seek you out on Facebook because you didn’t respond to them via their site message to you. If you offer various services to clients, list that clearly, concisely, and make it easy to find from the home page. If a client is signing a contract, make it very clear what they pay, when, how, and what they will receive in return. If a product is backordered, clearly state when it will be able to ship and when they can expect to receive it, as there can sometimes a long delivery time. Don’t make the customer do the work. That’s our job as business owners.
If that literal gate hadn’t been in my way to making that purchase, Starbucks would have had another $3 in their hand that day. Maybe that’s not a lot, but how many times a day is that happening? $3 can add up very quickly when multiplied.
If this does in fact affect their bottom line over time, they may not realize that something as simple as a gate is causing the problem. They may wonder if it’s the demographics of the surrounding area, the level of staff training, or the proximity of the competing Panera a block away. But, I wonder if it could simply be that there is a gate blocking customers from entering every way but one.
In your own business, is there something that you’re doing that is making it too hard for customers to work with you? What can you do to make it easier? Ask your customers if there is an aspect of your business that could be made easier on them? Take some time to look around, discuss, think of past client complaints, and consider just what gate you can remove so customers can easily do business with you.