A few weeks ago Aaron and I were lucky enough to celebrate our wedding anniversary by going back to our now favorite restaurant, Bar Les Freres. These people seriously know how to deliver a phenomenal customer experience. From the glowy, fall in love kind of atmosphere to the smiling service people, right on through to the personalized recommendations and special treats, you just feel like family. Because who else would treat you this well? Actually let’s be honest, most people don’t treat their family this well! And as I often do, I started to talk about how well they deliver such an incredible customer experience and that really, it isn’t rocket science. Any business can do it.
But as Aaron noted, yeah, but….it’s also not easy. You may know what to do, but so many businesses are just trying to do what they do well. They don’t know what their “customer experience” is or how to deliver a good one. It sounds so theoretical, or even too squishy gushy. So people just ignore it. In this day and age though, you definitely CANNOT ignore your customer experience. Regardless of your ability to hire a customer experience consultant like myself, you need to have a customer experience plan. So let’s go over the basics, the foundations of customer experience. It’s a three part pyramid – An Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Customer Experience Needs, if you will. The original comes from Forrester and is referred to as the Customer Experience Index. You can read more about it here, if interested. Very interesting stuff!
And BONUS, I even created a FREE Printable version of the pyramid for you at the end. So the next time you feel like sassin a p-oed customer on the phone, you can take a quick look at your pyramid and remember to just listen instead. You’re welcome…!
Deliver the Essentials
The lowest level of that hierarchy is to make sure that you deliver the essentials. If your client asks for a new paint color, choose a new paint color. If your client has a budget of $10,000 per room, give them a design for $10,000 or less. If you’re signing contracts in person, bring a pen. If you’re taking measurements, bring your measuring tape. If you set the meeting for 10:00 am, show up at 9:55. If you said you’ll bring a brochure and references with you, bring them. If they filled out a “pre-meeting questionnaire,” thoroughly review it before you meet. These sound obvious, but so often we forget to deliver the lowest level of service in the busyness of designing.
And doing these very basic tasks are crucial. Understandably we all worry that if a business can’t deliver on the small things, what will do they with the big things? It’s the very beginning, and often the most likely time, for businesses to lose their credibility. You haven’t had enough time to dazzle them with your shining personality or designs, so the easiest way for a client to make a quick judgement of a designer is with their ability to fulfill the basics. Imagine going to a restaurant that is so beautiful you’d swear Suzanne Kasler must have done it, and then being seated at a filthy table and you have to flag someone down to clean it, your food is served cold, and you aren’t given any utensils. Oh yeah, and there’s a mystery item in your butternut squash soup. This stunningly gorgeous restaurant is now on your worst list. You don’t care how gorgeous the Gustavian dining chairs are, you’re never coming here again.
Step 1 – Take care of the essentials first.
When You Confuse a Customer, You Lose a Customer
The second level of the customer experience hierarchy, make sure your customer doesn’t have to think. To use that annoyingly overused term, make it “intuitive.” Because if you confuse a customer, you lose a customer. If your contract is too confusing, if your fee structure is just convoluted, or if getting a hold of you is too time consuming, people won’t work with you. Make things as simple, straight forward, and clear as possible for your customers. For customers to get in touch with you, give them one or two phone numbers (your office number, your cell number if you’d like, and your assistant’s number if you have one), give them an email address for you (or your assistant if you have one), and give them your physical address if you have one. No need to give them your office number, your 800 number, your assistant’s email and phone number, your cell number, your assistant’s cell number, your FB page, your Twitter handle, etc. Now, all of this stuff can be on your business card of course, but tell your customer the best way to consistently and quickly get a hold of you from the first moment you speak. And then make sure that that’s actually true.
And the same thing goes with payment. I know that this is such a hot button but people want to quickly and easily understand what, how much, and how they’re paying. Tell them all of this in advance. You want them to feel completely comfortable handing over a huge chunk of change to you. Like they don’t even need to think about whether or not you’ll manage their money well. They need to feel like they’re handing their money over to Warren Buffet, not Bernie Madoff. And the only way to do this is to be very clear where their money is going, what they’re getting for it, how much this will all cost them, and when they’re expected to pay. And get very good, very very good at giving estimations of costs, and then sticking to them. No one is happy when you said it would cost $20k, and it ended up at $45.
Step 2 – Make it easy as possible to work with you.
Make ‘Em Smile
Once you’ve given them the essentials, made it easy to work with you, you then need to fulfill the last step. Make ’em smile. And this can save your butt in the bad times. If they like you, and if you show that you like them, this can be how you wiggle your way out of a real pickle. And I’m sure there will be, as there almost always is. The more your customer enjoys working with you, and the more you show you enjoy working with them, the better. The greater emotional connection you have with them, the more forgiving they are, the more willing they are to pay for the extras, the more likely they are to refer you, and the more trusting they are when you want to push them to let you design something that they normally wouldn’t try. Corny as it is, show them you care about them as a person first, and as a client second.
Bring them semi – personalized holiday gifts (giving the same holiday gift to each client can still be nice, but a gift that’s more specific to them is better), send them birthday cards (even after the project is over and you don’t think there will be another one), bring them a gosh darn PSL to the next meeting even if you hate it (and I do!) but they love it. Ask about their work, their family, and their hobbies. Start each meeting with chit chat. Genuinely complement them when you can. Go out of your way to get a question answered when you don’t know it. When they’re irritated with how the project is going, stop and listen. Don’t defend yourself. Listen, apologize, and come up with a solution. You don’t have to be a servant, but you do want to treat them with a servant’s heart. Corny? Possibly. And maybe not very “businessy” sounding either, but to me, it’s the best way to do business.
So, Step 3 – Make sure they enjoy their time with you, and everyone they encounter from your business.
Customer Experience Isn’t Impossible, But It Also Isn’t Always Intuitive
While picking Betwixt for those dining chairs may come to you naturally, knowing how to give your customers a memorable, impactful, and enjoyable customer experience may not. And that’s ok! People are just about as confusing a subject as there is. But by using these three steps, and the FREE PRINTABLE BELOW (don’t forget that!), you can be well on your way to being amazing at just one other thing. And loved by all, and who doesn’t want that?!
And if you’d like to get even more help with your customer experience, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started!