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The Ultimate Client Experience: Recipe for Success in a Down (or Any) Economy
What do your clients experience when working with you? Are they “good” experiences or bad ones? How do your client experiences serve to advance your own business goals, as well as theirs?
Client experiences can range near and far. They could represent what it feels like when working with you personally or when engaging with others within your organization to solve a critical, complex issue or they may signify something as simple as a quick question or minor request. Whatever the case, client experiences always begin with a client need and/or your understanding of the client’s need and/or the overall experience you create throughout the engagement lifecycle. Once you truly understand your client’s need, you can then begin to design the most favorable client experience of all, i.e., the “Ultimate Client Experience” or UCE.
To successfully design a UCE, be mindful of why a client comes to you in the first place:
Notice in reaching out to your company, your client is looking for both the technical – the solutions themselves, and emotional – reliability, trust, knowledge and “feel good,” connections. Too often in business it is easy to fixate upon the technical aspects of the products, services and solutions we sell. We have been educated for years to focus on how our solutions are designed, implemented, and maintained. Our clients expect a high degree of technical competence in the work that we perform. We have become extremely technical in our disciplines, highly “system” and “process” oriented. And we have come to believe that clients will judge us based upon our technical ability to produce results and desired outcomes.
While this technical demand is absolutely true – and expected – our clients are also seeking something more, something affective. The “feel good,” repeat experiences that positively impact our clients on an emotional level are just as important to the solution itself. It’s like going to a good restaurant – when you have delicious food and friendly service, your experience is enjoyable and you are more likely to return.
Another important note in delivering The Ultimate Client Experience is that it is not just the responsibility of one individual within your organization; it is everyone’s. Like with the hostess, waiter, bartender and chef in a restaurant, “touch points” have to be created by various people within various parts of your organization throughout the lifecycle of the client engagement – from presales and implementation to billing and continued support. Each of these touch points will help to build a strong client relationship and to deliver memorable experiences for your clients and repeat business for your company.
So how do we go about designing The Ultimate Client Experience? We become the restaurant chefs. Designing The Ultimate Client Experience is like following a recipe for your favorite dish or dessert. Once you have all the key ingredients you can begin to follow the recipe and achieve measurable and repeatable results. The following Ultimate Client Experience recipe has been crafted through many years of experience and experimenting with various measurements of ingredients, both with favorable and not-so-favorable results, before attaining a solid and profitable dish. When reading the key recipe ingredients below, keep in mind that each company’s recipe might be slightly different - an addition of something more here or less of something there, to suit their company’s individual taste or service. However, the principle is the same ... the experience needs to be special and memorable, leaving the client hungry for more.
Ultimate Client Experience Recipe for Success - The Key Ingredients:
Culture is the main ingredient in any recipe -- without it there is no dish -- like the sweet apples in grandma’s homemade apple pie.
Similarly, without a client-focused company culture, there can be no Ultimate Client Experience. A culture of Ultimate Client Experience needs to permeate the organization from top to bottom and left to right. The client should find it easy to engage with you and your team. And your employees’ passion and commitment should be transparent and infectious. This will lead to a client that is a stark raving fan. The smallest things that you and your organization do in that uncommon way will hook your client on the great experience and service you provided. The following ingredients go into creating this accolade-worthy culture of excellence:
People are any organization’s biggest asset. Just as a great chef (with the knowhow, passion and charisma) can turn a simple dish into something magnificent, great people can do the same for a company, helping to differentiate an organization from its competitors. Furthermore, great results come from having great people in the right roles, or as Jim Collins states, having them “in the right seat on the bus.” It all comes down to the people. Making the right people decisions will promote success for the individual, the organization and, ultimately, the client.
Attracting, motivating, and retaining quality people are keys to this very special ingredient in our recipe. Once you have found the right people it is important to develop and mentor them, which will in turn produce top notch performance.
Building lasting business relationships is very similar to the relationships we build in our personal lives, as they need constant care and attention. Spending quality time with your client is crucial to a happy, healthy and successful relationship. Be unique and offer something special from time to time. It never hurts to send client-tailored surprises such as a birthday or anniversary card, or a hand-written thank you card for attending a meeting or placing an order. Just as a chef visits his tables or sends out tasty gastronomic treats between courses, constantly connecting with clients on a special and emotional level is an important ingredient of delivering the Ultimate Client Experience. Memorializing special relationships and saying thank you is an easy and effective way to do so.
Understanding the Client and Their Business
It is extremely important to understand the client’s expectations from the beginning. It is very common for professional services organization to be very good at understanding the technical needs of the client and what it will take to deliver upon the technical need. Frustration can be created on both sides, however, when other, less technical and often more simple needs are overlooked at the beginning of the client engagement such as:
Once you understand your client’s needs you can create simple personal touches that generate significant value from the client's perspective. These touch points validate the fact that you truly understand the client’s needs and care about the quality and outcome of the engagement.
Simply put, there is great value in doing common things in an uncommon way. Make that special dish or service you provide unique; an experience like no other. Try performing the most ordinary task in a different way, look at it from a different perspective and think outside of the box. Uncommon thinking leads to uncommon action. For example, instead of sending that holiday Christmas card before Christmas, consider sending a Thanksgiving card thanking your client for their business or a Valentines card letting them know how much you love working with them.
Getting your employees to think in uncommon ways can be tricky, like mixing the cake batter just the right amount of times to get the perfect texture or consistency. You have to get them to break out of their daily routines, step outside of their comfort zone and try a new recipe instead of the same one they have baked for years.
Now that you have the key ingredients to create a memorable Ultimate Client experience, how will you go about creating that unique recipe for you and your organization? Every chef has their secret and as with any great recipe it takes practice along with some trial and errors. Be willing to accept the challenge, and sometimes frustration, along with the fun and excitement. Each step in discovering the right combination of Culture, People, Relationship Building and Client Understanding will lead you closer to the recipe best suited for your organization and clients. One that makes you stand out from others and keep your clients coming back for more as you provide the Ultimate Client Experience.
Many more articles in Customer Service in The CEO Refresher Archives