Customer experiences are actually created long before your customer ever reaches your doorstep. They often start with impressions and perceptions created when your potential customer interacts with friends and colleagues who may tell them about your company, or they search online and find articles and reviews about your business.
This is the moment when expectations are created based on what messages are currently active about your business and the customer experience. While you can’t control others — you can control and design a customer experience. Here’s how:
- Profile Your Customer. I know I say this all the time, but if you want to control a customer experience, the first thing you must do is be clear on what kind of customer you’d like to attract and then create a customer experience targeted toward them. Here’s an example: If you have a hair salon business and you decide to target people who are on a busy schedule. You might design an experience that guarantees that your customer will start their appointment on time and end their appointment on time — every time. If you were targeting people who wanted to go to a salon for a spa experience and who looked at that experience as entertainment, rather than a task — those people would feel rushed, hurried and unappreciated. So first decide on WHO your customer is and what’s important and then start designing a customer experience around that.
- Map out your experience process. The best experiences are really staged, orchestrated and managed. Customers appreciate the thought put into it and are willing to pay a higher price and give great reviews to the companies that deliver. To design a great process, you’ll need to map out exactly what your process looks like TODAY. This way you can manage and measure the effectiveness of the changes you’re making. At each stage of the process, outline exactly what your desired action or outcome is and then work backwards to make sure that it’s achieved. For example, if your customer is a busy person who wants to receive service within 5 minutes of walking in, you may decide to have them schedule an appointment in advance so that their slot is guaranteed.
- Create opportunities for feedback. Don’t wait to ask for feedback! Use mobile data collection technologies to collect feedback right at the time of the customer experience. Or, you can post QR codes at different stations around your location and give customers the opportunity to give you a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” at that specific station. It not only increases customer engagement, it allows you to control that experience in real time and make improvements immediately before a bad impression is created.
- Change it up for the better. If you’re receiving input and feedback, make those changes and publicize them. If a customer made a request for something that turned into an improvement to your system – let everyone know. If it’s appropriate for your business, acknowledge them there or why not send them a letter or note about the change you made with a special free gift to come back and experience their idea in action.
With today’s interactive technology, there is no reason to wait for customer satisfaction feedback — get the feedback as soon as possible so that you can control the quality of that experience. This will not only improve your customer satisfaction ratings, but will improve profitability, loyalty and customer engagement.