Creating a positive customer experience involves more than just delivering your product and service "on time, exactly as promised." At every point of contact with your customers — at every "touch point" — your business must be engineered to create positive associations and expectations of gratification. Indeed, the sensory experience of your customer plays an important role in their perception of the value your business provides. The sensory experience of a business includes the look and feel of your business, the location, logo and marketing materials, employee appearance and attitude and the usability and value of your product. By customizing these sensory factors to meet and exceed the expectations of our customers, you can deliver an experience that turns one-time customers into long-term advocates.
Walking in your customer's shoes
To best understand how to improve the sensory experience of your business, you will need to step out of your role as owner and think about your product or services from your customer's point of view. It's important to remember that most customers don't really care about your business, its profitability and the costs involved in running it. Their primary concern is satisfying a specific need and getting the best value along the way. Customers expect to receive a great product or service. They want to be treated extremely well and they do not want to pay more then they have to. These are their minimum expectations of any business they buy from.
Understanding these minimum requirements and the options your customers have available to them is an important first step in designing a memorable customer experience. Here a few questions that will help you take an objective look at how well your business satisfies your customer's minimum requirements. Once you've analyzed your answers, you can begin making small improvements to the customer experience that will positively differentiate your business from the competition.
- What is the primary need my customers want to satisfy by coming to my business?
- What are the main factors they will consider when making a purchase decision?
- What are the five most convenient alternatives (competitors) they have for satisfying this need?
- On a scale from one to 10, how effectively do you feel your business is doing in consistently delivering on your customer's minimum requirements?
Making changes to your business's sensory experience can be costly and hard to quantify. If you make major changes without first gathering input from your customers, you risk being seen as inconsistent and could possibly alienate your loyal customers. Using surveys, focus groups and feedback forms to collect information from your customers is the best way to learn what improvements to make. Ask your customers a few simple questions about their experience with your business and their needs, and design your customer experience to meet and exceed those expectations.
Gather feedback on the following categories:
- Location – The physical appearance of your business has a huge impact on the sensory experience. Think about the cleanliness of your business, the comfort level it provides, the professionalism - it's all important, and it's all about first impressions.
- Employees – The appearance and attitude of employees. We've all had bad experiences dealing with somebody who's cranky or sloppy when delivering their service and it severely impacts how we feel about the business they represent. It only takes one bad experience to turn somebody away - for good.
- Marketing –The appeal, clarity and design of your company's logo and related marketing material.
- Competitors – Become a "Secret Shopper" and visit competitor locations, buy a product from them, visit their website and analyze their marketing materials. Talk with your customers about them. The more information you have about where the competition fall short, the better you can do at fulfilling the needs of the market.
Putting it all together
With some real feedback in hand, create a list of five improvements you want to make to your businesses sensory experience. Prioritize the list and set a near-term time line to put a few of the changes in place. Revisit this exercise at least once a year to ensure your business is always at the forefront in your industry.
Does your client experience match the business sensory experience you intended to create? How has your client's perception of your business changed once you intentionally created a systematic client/business experience? Tell us about it!