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It’s Always a First Experience for customers – Are you creating it?

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Consumer spending was already changing before the 2020 pandemic decimated the tenuous foundation of many economies, so what will it take for businesses to survive in an already constricting marketplace? Besides creativity and adaptability, the key to staying power is providing consistent, awe-inspiring experiences.

True customer loyalty is rare, but once given it is near impossible to break. Creating such a bond with your target client or consumer audience will increasingly dictate those companies who can continue to weather a tumultuous economy as their patrons will attempt to continue to spend dollars with those whom they most value and trust. Think about it, we all have memories of business or consumer experiences so genuinely fantastic that we willingly would have them recreated, perhaps even continue to spend dollars there when our wallets are tight…

For example, though I have moved states and almost a decade has passed, I can tell you where you’ll not only get the best cup of joe in Philly during morning rush hour, but with the most impeccable service – Passero’s Coffee Roasters. Seriously, think about the rarity of my remembering Passero’s after the five million cups of coffee I’ve had since then!

Another such illustration is the draw of the impeccable standard of food perfection that is attributed to chef Gordon Ramsay’s name. Of course, his profanity laden T.V. dramas such as Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares may initially draw your attention, but the foundation behind the genius is pure food excellence. Why do people pack Ramsay’s restaurants in droves to pay near $100 for Beef Wellington, including myself on a trip through Vegas? Because of the culinary experience, we know the entire staff have the flawless standards of Chef and the food will ALWAYS be well worth the money. P.S. don’t forget to order some Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert!

Ok, so you may not YET be Ramsay or Passero’s, so where do you start to build your company’s reputation for a particular experience? Not to be trite, but start from the beginning! First start treating customers as if you were always trying to make the best first impression! Set this standard of excellence both for yourself as well as making it an intentional standard for all of your employees. If we’re attempting to make a stellar first impression we will not shy into lackadaisical communication and interactions, nor will we make assumptions about the needs and even level of understanding of prospects and customers (more on the latter below).

Creating an experience that is so memorable that it inspires customer loyalty is achieved through intentionality (goodbye transactionality), not a mere nod to remembering one’s manners and social pleasantries. It’s in the planning, details, and execution that creates awe inspiring experiences, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated! Need some ideas to get started? Here are things to consider and to begin executing upon in building your experiential client-focused atmosphere:

  1. Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Start by thinking about what would make you feel fabulous about an interaction with your company, then have all of your employees provide their responses to this thought exercise, you need variety in your input to inspire excellence that is inclusive! You’re specifically seeking input on what will inspire the feelings, actions, and communication you desire from your target audience by examining how you would create that for yourself. For a company like SouthWest Airlines lightheartedness, warmth, and comedy provide a constant for their standard of customer interaction that inspires a friendly loyalty. What is your desired style, impeccable attention to detail, sophistication, individual attention, a sense of community, etc.?

  2. Be Genuine, Anyone Can Spot a Fake: Once you have settled on the desired experience you are providing for clients, make sure that you and your staff are dedicated to authentically providing this intended atmosphere. Nothing is worse than an unenthusiastic team member slogging through the “required” business protocols pretending to meet their role expectations, and almost everyone has the emotional capacity to understand authenticity versus begrudging acquiescence. I loved my Passero’s coffee precisely because the entire staff had a passion for friendly, speedy service that brightened my morning work commute.

  3. Be Consistent, Then Repeat: Once you’ve hooked your desired customer, do NOT let them down by failing to provide that which they’ve come to expect. I would be a little let down if I didn’t hear at least one joke from a SouthWest flight attendant, I would regret my pricy Ramsay dinner if it didn’t deliver on excellence, and my morning coffee would have less of a pick me up without the genuine customer experience. Deliver, deliver, deliver that which you intentionally curate for your clients be it exclusivity, friendliness, or even timeliness of service! This tip really is the key to longevity for client loyalty.

  4. Finally, Don’t Make Assumptions: We start to get sloppy when we make assumptions or even excuses for a lapse in our execution. A chef in Ramsay’s kitchen is human and may fail to execute on a perfectly cooked risotto, but you can guarantee that this food won’t be served to a guest. The flight attendant on your SouthWest flight may have a bad day, but he’ll leverage his teammates to infuse the flight cabin with the signature lightheartedness we’ve come to expect. It’s not about perfection, but it’s about teamwork, and not getting lazy about what you think your clients need, want, or even understand about your offerings. If you’re always trying to make that great first impression to your most loyal client, and you’re always striving to deliver on your company’s objective for experience, then even when your human moments arise you will traverse them with grace all while preserving the expectations of your most precious audience.

You can do this, start to create a buzz about your brand because customers are impressed with your combined delivery of products or services and HOW you execute on a consistent curated business experience!

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