I’m at the point in my life where I look to buy products and services based largely on the experience I receive. There was a time when going out to dinner meant going to places like TGI Fridays, Cracker Barrel or Applebee’s. But, not any longer … today, I seek out that local spot, you know, the kind of place where, “everybody knows your name.” The same goes for hotels, travel destinations and every other purchase I make. For me, it’s about the brand story and the customer experience. I’m guessing that if you look at your own buying habits, you might find the same is true for you.
I see this desire for an exceptional experience everywhere I turn – and it’s happening across generations, too. My kids, who are in their twenties, are after great experiences … and you can bet our clients are, too.
Given the importance of providing an exceptional customer experience in today’s market, the question we should be asking ourselves is how does the experience we (which is influenced strongly by our service, culture and clients) provide stack up? And, even more to the point … what can we do to make it even better to retain our existing clients and win new ones?
Remember, a great client experience is not just a friendly receptionist; it encompasses so much more, including these components defined below:
- Brand – The fundamental story of what your firm is and strives to be, which forms the foundation on which your firm stands.
- Brand experience – All of the touchpoints through which your clients interact with your firm and form an impression of it, good or bad. Your client experience is a subset of your brand experience.
- Client interactions – These make up the “action” piece of your client experience; some might call it customer service. It’s where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. The focus here is on catering to your clients’ specific needs to create the best possible outcome in all interactions.
- Marketing – In my eyes, this means telling the story of your brand and your customer experience in a way that attracts the right clients to your business. It is vital to the overall success of your firm.
Now that we’ve examined what comprises the right kind of client experience, let’s take a look at three steps you can use to deliver one (and great customer service) at your firm:
- Understand the kind of clients you want to serve and the services you want to deliver to them. You can’t be all things to all people, and, if you try, it is unlikely that you will be great at any of them. You must understand who you want to serve and how you want to serve them before you can develop a plan to create an incredible customer experience plan. Know your customer and what’s important to them, and then develop a plan to excel at every touchpoint.
- Build your technology delivery model with your ideal customer in mind. I travel pretty regularly, which makes me an ideal prospect for many airlines. I am loyal to Delta Airlines and have elevated status because of this loyalty – which means I generally receive a very satisfactory client experience that’s beyond the basics, such as having every one of their flights take off and land on time. If that’s all that I could expect from Delta, it would not be enough for a great customer experience, in my eyes.I want (and expect) more from my experience with Delta. I want to be able to search trips online to find the flights that are best suited to my schedule, and I don’t want to have to call a travel agent. I want to be able to check-in using my mobile device, instead of standing in long lines at the airport. I also want a mobile boarding pass. If Delta’s technology delivery model didn’t include all these options, in addition to the fact that they take off and land on time, I would look elsewhere.What do your clients expect and want from your firm? Build your business model based on the kind of experience your ideal customer wants from you. It may not be obvious at the moment, so you may have to ask them.
- Develop the team to deliver your products. Note that I said products, not services. Your ideal customers want to buy solutions from you, not an hourly service model. When you have a focused set of products designed around a cloud-based anytime, anywhere, any device delivery system, you can train your staff to execute based on the expectations you and your clients have. So, once you design your solutions, build and train your team to deliver them, setting clear customer experience expectations in the process.
Building a better client experience should be done by design. Take the time to first design the foundation formed by your products, ideal clients, delivery system and team, so that you can then focus on your brand and customer experience. Too many firms never take the time to do the foundational work, and therefore struggle with their brand and customer experience. However, if you devote the time and vision necessary, you will be that much closer to having great customer service, an exceptional client experience, more of your ideal clients and a true Firm of the Future.