The Customer Experience is a fundamental topic that every single business must pay premium attention to, because if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business.
When we talk about customer experience, you could picture a retail setting, with a friendly and helpful sales assistant making you feel like a VIP as they offer the perfect solution to the problem you needed help with. Oh, how we miss those days of good, proper customer service! (but that’s a whole other story…)
One of the Permaculture Ethics is: People Care – focusing on how our actions always impact the people around us, so make sure that impact is a positive one. It’s important to care for one another. After all, we all share this space on earth, and we all deserve to be respected and valued.
One of the Permaculture Principles is: Design from Patterns to Details, reminding us that before we get to the nitty gritty, let’s develop the over-arching strategy – or pattern – to make sure that every little action is intentional towards your great vision or goal.
Focus on what you REALLY sell – and it’s NOT your product or service!
A sale occurs when the customer has a problem, and the business offers a solution. The customer agrees to pay what the business is charging for that solution. That solution could be so many things! Food, clothing, shelter, there’s all those essential necessities of life, but then there’s things like security, fulfilment, connection, identity, independence, purpose or achievement.
These are all important needs as well, and they have deep and powerful emotions connected to them. In the pursuit of creating an unforgettable customer experience, focus on making the solution you provide to their problem one that also fulfils a deep emotional need, and they will never forget it.
We can narrow this down to a few examples for illustrations’ sake.
- Robert is an organic market gardener who sells his fresh produce at the farmer’s market each Saturday. Robert really enjoys the contrast of engaging directly with his customers, after having laboured in his garden all week in solitude. So he really connects with his customers. He has a devoted following that regularly turns up at the crack of dawn to his stall. Robert knows his customers’ children’s names, he knows what vegetables they like best, they share recipes and stories, they value his advice with gardening tips. He might be exchanging fresh organic produce for money, but really, what he’s selling is connection. When someone takes the time and interest to see you, to care, to notice, it matters. These customers value that connection greatly, and that necessity of life in the food they purchase just becomes the vehicle they use to receive their connection with him. That’s an unforgettable customer experience.
- Amy crafts items to adorn homes with creative and beautiful timber pieces. She has perfected her art, and sells online to a market that doesn’t question the price she charges. There is a steady back-log of orders patiently waiting to be completed, and even though she never even speaks to these customers, or engages in any direct correspondence above the order confirmation and receipt of payment, her customers are raving fans. Why? What is the customer experience? Amy’s customers find her pieces online through various channels, beautifully presented and exactly what they were looking for – not to fill an empty spot on their coffee table, but that feeling they are yearning for to feel special, to have something that no one else has. The sales process has them feeling like they are privileged to be one of the lucky few who have her pieces in their home. This deep emotional need exists for many people to feel special or unique or even superior. It’s an important part of their identity, and it’s not something that is good or bad, it just is. They will pay handsomely for it to be fulfilled, too. The sales process that Amy set up through her website and marketing channels focuses on connecting with, and speaking to, this emotional need. She ensures that by receiving her pieces to display in their home, they will always feel that special way every time they look at her work.
- Kathy runs a bookkeeping business. She has 2 full time staff helping her, and together they look after the accounts for a fully-booked schedule of clients each month. The function of the work being done is mostly online, and mostly remote, with a regular weekly or monthly direct check-in with each client. Everything runs like clock-work. Each week, month, quarter and year, the tasks are organised and completed, and regardless of who completes the task, the same high standard applies. This has not happened by accident. Kathy has set up her operation to fulfil the thing that her clients need the most from her – security. The customer experience from their perspective is something she has developed consciously – to fulfil that deep emotional need for security. Her clients KNOW with absolute certainty that their tax obligations are completely accurate and up to date, and that their cashflow projections are positive. With all the other insecurities they experience with running a business, their accounting process is not one of them. That feeling of safety, security, assurance, and confidence is a powerful motivator when looking for a service provider. As long as Kathy continues to deliver this emotional need, her clients aren’t going anywhere, and they will pay what she charges with no questions asked.
In all of these examples, the customers are buying the emotion they need fulfilled. The exchange of money is for something entirely different, but the real reason they buy from THIS business is to receive that emotional solution, which creates that unforgettable customer experience.
Focus on THEIR experience as a customer, NOT what you do.
At networking events, many business owners introduce themselves and their business by default to describing what profession or service or product they sell. Who cares? A very important lesson I learned initially from my sister – a powerhouse of a digital marketing expert – and then in action as I applied it to my business, is to keep it customer centric. If a customer engages with you, it’s only because it’s what they need and they like what they experience. It’s even a well-used acronym now: WIIFM (What’s in it for me?).
I’ll be blunt. No one is going to care as much as you do about the hours and years you have poured into developing your business, or that you have finally sorted out your work-life balance to be able to consistently maintain a healthy existence for you as a business owner and a family member. Why would your customer care? It’s one thing to connect with someone’s story, but if that heart-warming story means that they are left frustrated with the delivery or your product or service, they won’t stick around.
When you are developing any kind of conversation with your market, focus on what they need, what they see, what their experience is from their perspective. Put yourself in their shoes and really ask yourself – what would motivate them to buy from me? How will this interaction leave them feeling? Will they feel appreciated? Connected? Secure? Special? Or will it be possibly a little confusing if you haven’t refined your pitch to stick to only the relevant things.
Could that interaction maybe be frustrated when they have a certain expectation that you don’t meet? How was that expectation created in the first place? As the seller, you have the ability to create the ideal scenario for both you and your customer – through clear and concise communication of what they can expect and what you can guarantee to deliver.
Focusing on the customer experience from their perspective will help you to identify gaps in the process. It will help you to highlight the key elements that make it work, the things that really matter to the customer, and the reason they will engage with you.
Your communication and marketing should focus on the problems you help solve and the answers to your customer’s questions. Speak to what they are looking for, and then build the process for the delivery of your product or service to be an unforgettable customer experience for them.
Focus on the PATTERN to deliver their experience
Many creative and passionate small business owners have shared that the idea of squishing their creative process into a restrictive system, to automate processes and take the humanity out of their interactions with their customers is nothing short of abhorrent! The reason we love small business over big business is precisely for that reason – with big business, all the connections and human elements have been removed, reduced to a robotic machine of processes and procedures.
Except, that isn’t what we’re talking about. I’ve heard many business owners say: my products are bespoke, every job is different, you can’t systematise that! My response is: no matter how bespoke and unique each customer and job and situation (because all customers are unique and every interaction will be one of a kind) the way to really create an unforgettable customer experience is by having a positively predictable experience, where the customer, if they become a return customer – or one who is a referral from a past customer – will experience the same care and attention and journey from the first contact to the final delivery.
To explain this better, let’s look at this example. Sue enters a hairdresser for the first time, for a cut and blow-wave. She is greeted by a smiling and friendly hairdresser, who makes her comfortable, asks after her preferences and ensures that the instructions are received and understood before she proceeds to cut. During the cut they chat pleasantly as if they were old friends. Afterwards, she is treated with a special complimentary hair treatment, and given a bit of a VIP treatment as she leaves the chair. Sue is thoroughly impressed, and makes a personal commitment to return. A month later, she does return, and is greeted rather unenthusiastically by a different hairdresser, who points to the chair, and when Sue gives her instructions of what she wants, the hairdresser nods and gets started without repeating the instructions back to her. There is little conversation, Sue is trying to re-spark the experience she was hoping to get, to no avail. After the cut there is no treatment, and little itchy hairs are left in her collar that were not brushed out. She is charged the same amount, and sent on her way without being wished a pleasant day.
Now, if Sue had received the second experience the first time, she may not have minded so much, because she wasn’t necessarily looking for the VIP treatment the first time. If that was her first encounter she may not have been terribly impressed, but when the expectation was to experience the same feel-good moments that she had the first time, the disappointment was crushing.
That is the kind of experience pattern we’re talking about. These moments that let the customer know they are valued and appreciated. These need to be moments that don’t happen by accident, or only when the owner is in a good mood. There must be a pattern that is delivered each and every time, by every member staff from the owner to the apprentice. For each unique customer, for each bespoke job, and for each 1 minute interaction with a retail customer that you may never see again. The consistency of delivering this experience – a collection of special moments – becomes what you will be known for as much as your logo. What is your pattern? How do you weave a positive and unforgettable customer experience into the very fabric of your branding and your culture?
3 Focus steps to your unforgettable customer experience.
So this is how you create a devoted following of raving fans who love what you do, tell their friends about you, and give you a loyalty that trumps any stamp on a card.
- Focus on the emotional need you provide them with.
- Focus on their experience, their needs, their perspective.
- Focus on the pattern you use to deliver a consistent experience each and every time.
Can you see how each of these focus steps interrelate and build on each other? The emotion is a key part of the customer centric, and the pattern is built on those moments that matter to the customer. If you take one of them out, the other two can’t work effectively without it. All 3 are needed to hit that target.
Giving credit where credit is due, a lot of this knowledge came from a book that was recommended to me many years ago when I first started reaching out into consultancy and being something more than my little work-from-home gig. It was truly enlightening, and the concepts have proven themselves time and time again. It is “The E-myth” and you can find out more HERE
I have provided a template that you can download for free to help develop your unforgettable customer experience pattern. In this simple form, explore what you know about your existing or past customers, consider what you offer them and the problems you solve, and work through how you can communicate this in theory and then in practice. Often these things can already be a thing that your people do well, but if it’s documented, as your business grows and new staff join, this culture can be multiplied far easier than without.
We all want to be appreciated and valued, so if you haven’t seen a smile yet today, give someone one of yours. It starts with you.
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