A pin drops on a Periscope broadcast in Seattle, WA and is seen by forty people live on nearly every continent in the world. These forty people tell their friends who watch the replay and eventually this video of a pin dropping is viral, being seen by millions of people all around the globe. I don’t have to tell you that they world we live in is a whirlwind of information that is available in an instant. Now imagine that your product goes viral. But for the wrong reasons. How many videos have you seen on the web of people leaving nasty reviews for companies and reaching thousands of people with them? As a small business owner, this is kind of a terrifying prospect. But there is a certain amount of control that business owners can have. Is it foolproof? Hell no. But it helps to prevent bad publicity because no matter what you heard on Mad Men, there is such a thing as bad publicity. So let’s talk about how to prevent the dreaded viral for the wrong reasons. It all starts with your customer experience.
Why Customer Experience Is That Important
Think about your own buying experiences. When you have to jump through thirty hoops to buy that really cute pair of earrings, it becomes a chore. But the fewer clicks there are between us and waiting eagerly for our products to arrive, the better we feel about the purchase. Also, the fewer clicks between us and that purchase button the less likely we are to change our minds. Cart abandonment is a huge issue fo product based businesses. But cart abandonment can happen for service based businesses too. Maybe not in the literal sense of placing a digital product into the cart, but that client that drops off the face of the planet after a few emails. Now, designing your customer experience, whether you have a product or service based business, prevents this drop-off, keeps the customer engaged through the purchase process, and above all turns prospective customers and clients into paying customers and clients who come back to you.
Customer experience design also puts a little more control in your hands as the business owner. It is a pretty common misconception that the customer has the power to buy or not buy. And this is the case to a point. That final click on "submit order" is all in the customer’s hands. But having a set process in place guides people through the sales process and that, dear, is something that you can control. So enough about why, let’s dive into how.
The Elements of a Customer Experience
Sustainability. When designing your customer experience, remember that you have to be able to do it every single time. It’s part of what makes your brand go ‘round. Examples of this may be a canned response email to acknowledge that someone has sent you an email from your website. Another may be a customer gift to say "thank you for working with me." No matter what it is, you have to be able to sustain it. So going to Things Remembered and engraving something for a customer isn’t realistic because it isn’t sustainable. But adding in a small sample of a similar product can be.
Value. Value is really what will set your customer experience apart from the rest. Determine what your customer is lacking and fill in that gap with something meaningful. An example of this may be a face to face meeting via Skype or at a local coffee shop. Another could be providing a step by step guide to using your products. By placing value in your customer experience, you are acknowledging that your customer has a need and you are not only willing, but capable of providing for them before they even begin purchasing your products or services.
Personal. With all of the technology that we as a society are faced with daily, it is easy to feel isolated. But when your customer comes to your website and feels after reading a few lines that you are in their head, it sets you up for the chance to make their experience personal. Whether it is setting meetings face to face, replying to emails in a timely manner, or even saying something as simple as, “I understand you,” your customer, whether they know it or not, is craving to be understood, validated, and acknowledged. You can work personal touches into your website copy, emails, meetings, and pretty much every other contact you have with your customer.
Overall Satisfaction. Think about your own buying experiences. What makes for a satisfying purchase. I would imagine it is some combination of service (how you were treated, how connected you felt to the person selling the product or service, etc.), the product you purchased (how well it fulfills your needs, the value in relation to the price,) and the operations of the business (how smooth the buying process was, not having to jump through hoops, etc.) So when you think about the overall satisfaction of your customer, remember to keep the process as simple as possible. People hate to be inconvenienced and one twinge of doubt can stop a purchase right in its tracks.
Designing Your Customer Experience
I have asked you twice now to think about your own buying experiences and think about them in relation to what you can provide for your customers or clients. Asking yourself about how you feel throughout someone else’s process can really show you what you do and do not want to include in your businesses.
Developing your customer experience starts out with probably the least fun, tedious thing you could possibly do in your business. Write down your entire process for everything. It sucks, I know, but mapping out what you are doing right now allows you to really understand what your customers are experiencing right now. Click through it on your website, write down the average amount of time people wait for an email reply from you, go through your payment process. Write it all out and for the love of Pete, save it. You’re going to need it for several other things when working on your business and you really don’t want to have to do this more often than you absolutely have to.
Once you have done the most awful thing you will all week, you can start really developing your experience. Start inserting personal touches and obscene amounts of value into your process. Really think it through and ask yourself along the way, “Is this sustainable? Is this contributing to the overall satisfaction of my customer?” If it’s not sustainable, place it on hold. Just because it’s not sustainable right now doesn’t mean that it won’t be in the future. No such thing as bad ideas here. If it isn’t contributing to overall satisfaction, throw it out. Get rid of it. Don’t keep it. Put it on a list of things that you have rejected so you don’t talk yourself into it later because it sounds good again.
Bringing It All Together
Designing your customer experience can be a hell of a process. It’s not easy. But your sales, your reviews, and your customer's satisfaction depend on how you resonate with the people who drive your business. In the near future, we’ll be digging a little deeper into the customer experience and what to do when things go wrong. Let’s face it, things go wrong. But you can be ready for this and aware of what you need to provide to get everything back on track. Hopefully, you found this post useful. If you did, but have some questions, leave a comment below. I’ll answer.
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