“Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.” (John Keats)
When you started out in business, what did you do first? You probably considered what products and services you would offer, how to make and deliver them, your pricing structure, and maybe how you would market them.
Chances are, you didn’t consider the customer. Or if you did, it was probably only in terms of how You would deal with Them!
Very few businesses are truly customer-focused. And those that are, do excel. Think of brands that you love and consider whether they have your interests at the heart of what they do? And then think of others (certain airlines might spring to mind, and not the obvious one) who seem to do everything in their power to annoy and frustrate you.
As smaller businesses we have the power to engage with customers on a very personal basis, and to give them a great experience from start to finish of their journey with us.
However, have you considered where that journey begins and ends?
Buyers have changed – and you are a buyer too! No longer do we look up a company in Yellow Pages and give them a call to discuss what we need. We Google. We check out social media. We search using questions. As a result we find websites, blogs, videos, insta stories, tweets, LinkedIn profiles (and lots more). We might meet at a networking event! And we start to make judgements.
· Does that website look good?
· Does this company look reliable and trustworthy?
· Is that video useful, can I solve my problem?
· Is that Facebook page a bit dated, with no posts since 2016?
· Was that tweet from that company contra to my own values?
· Does this person come across as a bit pushy and salesy?
We might not, at this stage on our “journey” do more than look and make an assessment of whether we think this person or company can help us. We might just be at the beginning of our research, and not quite ready to buy yet. But we will decide – maybe in 7 or 8 seconds – whether Company A is reliable and trustworthy, or Company B isn’t someone we would want to deal with.
The Journey has begun!
Once we are ready to buy, we may book or buy online, or email / call the company. Again, there may be a negative or positive experience:
· Our email doesn’t get answered in a timely fashion
· We call and leave a message and no-one calls us back
· The website is clunky and our order gets lost in the system
· The person answering the phone is cheery and helpful
· There’s a handy appointment booking system that makes it easy to arrange a meeting
· Our booking goes through and we get sent a free gift
If your customer has to actually visit your premises, have you thought about what it is like for them?
· Are you near public transport?
· Are you easy to find?
· Can people park easily/cheaply?
· Can they find the right door? (I’ve had this issue on numerous occasions!)
· Is there a friendly person waiting to help them once they enter the building?
· Do they have to find their own way or does someone guide them?
· Do your premises seem clean, warm and welcoming?
Remember – they may not actually be a customer yet, they might be coming for a sales meeting – and you don’t want them on the back foot because they couldn’t find anywhere to park, or there was no-one in reception. Even if they are a current customer, they may decide that the lack of parking is an issue and not come back.
Customers also love consistency. They want to see the same branding on the website, on documents, on the staff uniforms.
They want the sales confirmation and the invoice to have the same colours and fonts. You do too (as a customer!) You may not think these things are important, but every single thing you do, or don’t do, or forget this one time, influences the customer’s impression of you, your company, your brand!
How can we improve the experience for our customers, and make sure it is the best it can be?
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and walk through the journey yourself. What do they see when they visit your website, your blog/vlog, your Instagram page? What do they see if they walk past your premises day after day on their way to work? What is it like – for them – if they visit you? If necessary, engage a “mystery shopper” (maybe just a friend, although there are people out there you can pay to do this) to tell you what it is like for them being one of your customers.
You don’t need to make one massive change, small improvements will add up to a much greater experience for your customer. Put up a sign to make it easy to see where to go. Update your Facebook page regularly. Keep branding consistent across all your customer documents. Be mindful of all the touchpoints, and make small adjustments – and see your customer satisfaction increase!
Customer retention is key. You want to keep the customers you have, and for them to recommend you to their friends – so give them a fabulous experience!
Written by Cat Cripps, Coach and Consultant.