Match the DNA
Any claims you make about your products has to be overtly represented in the process someone goes through to buy and use them. Otherwise you have not only cast doubt on the intention of your client experience, you have called into question the quality of the products themselves.
Always Do This
- What are the adjectives your company uses to describe any product’s reliable special features, quality standards and intention?
- Make sure that these same adjectives are applied to the client experience – the process of buying and using the product.
Focus on the Field of Awareness
You may understand your business very well, and marvel at the intelligence, discipline and complex mechanisms required to deliver it to your clients. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean your clients always understand these things or attach any importance to them.
Your clients are neither as knowledgeable about, nor infatuated by, your organization it is. The strategies that sound urgent and glorious in your conference rooms will often fail to even attract the notice of your clients in their own world. What your clients do understand and appreciate is what is most relevant to them, especially when they can compare and contrast quality between your company's version and other experiences.
The key is to focus on what your clients will immediately notice and care about – what they’ve seen before in the experience of buying on behalf of the enterprise and as a consumer themselves. Focus on what they do understand and they’ll grant you credibility for everything they don’t.
Always Ask Yourself This
- What do your clients care most about in their experience?
- What can they most easily understand in the experience?
- What in the experience would they be able to differentiate between typically (poorly) done by others or spectacularly well done by you?
Always Do This
- Focus highlights of the client experience on the fields of awareness.
Exaggerate the Experience
There isn't a legendary client experience feature from any company that made financial or operational sense when it was first suggested within the company. It only made sense when it made sense to the company's client culture and served the company well. And that only happened if the feature made no sense at all.
The irony of communicating to a culture is that something has to be exaggerated to be believable. Any exaggerated protection or promotion of what your company says is important to you will become a legend in your client culture. Legends are how a culture communicates and stores information.
Therefore, the client experience has to feature exaggerated aspects that have no obvious connectivity to a financial return for your company - apparently an unnecessary, over-the-top waste of effort and money for the company. Your clients can see that this has no apparent financial gain for you. Why would you do this for them? It doesn't make any sense. Of course not; but not making sense is exactly the point. The only way to comprehend it is that it's a tangible proof point of your commitment to a spectacular and signature client experience.
The keys are that the exaggerations have to be linked to your larger brand intention, activation categories and communications personality, and that they are obvious: overt, unavoidable and easy to understand.
Always Do This
- Develop exaggerated features (or events) of the client experience that have no obvious relationship to your company benefit — only your clients' benefit.
- Focus exaggerated features on the client fields of awareness.
- "Waste space" by providing something of pure client benefit, unrelated to any financial transactions.
- Give something to clients after they have already bought something from you - when they least expect the brandable experience to continue.
Create the Echo of a Thousand Good Times
Two companies that sell exactly the same thing at the same price. In one, cclients get an intuitively warm feeling, making them want to linger and return often. The other leaves clients intuitively cold, wanting to depart quickly and not return. It marks the difference between a company that leaves clients cold and a company that produces an intuitively warm feeling in its client culture.
In the warmer, inviting company there is an intangible “echo of a thousand good times” as if you can feel the spirit of clients just like you who had been there before and been treated right. Translating this feeling means creating tangible proof points of three committed relationships that are clearly precious to the company: The relationship between your company and your clients, between your company and your employees, and between your company and your local communities.
The relationship between your company and its clients would be seen, for example, by celebration of any significant event in client’s lives – the company is aware of these things because it is close enough to the client and cares enough. It celebrates it to the client and in some cases celebrates it about the client in its own company. The relationship between a company and its employees is important because clients are made up of people who are employees of other companies themselves. They are naturally supportive of any company that treats its own staff with respect and affection. It is seen, for example, in the celebration of its own employees significant life events- a celebration that reaches the client because a company this close to both its own people and its client wouldn’t put a barrier between the two.
The relationship between a company and its communities is important because the client belongs to these communities too and will notice if the company gives back to the environment from which it takes revenue. Support of local charities is an example of this but it’s not about giving money as much as giving time and intelligence – providing the expertise that it sells to the client for free. And it’s not only the support of local charities but the communities themselves: spotlight what is right and stand up for what needs to be fixed.
These relationships slop over traditional lines of demarcation in the relationship between a company and its client, but it isn’t sloppy in presentation – just enthusiastic and often informal – genuine, not calculated.
Always Do This
- Show tangible evidence of the relationship the company and its clients. Publicly celebrate client life events so other clients can see it.
- Show tangible evidence of the relationship between the company and its employees. Place recruitment collateral in the branches and in client sections of the website that show the respect and affection you have for your people. Publicly celebrate employee life events so clients can see it.
- Show tangible evidence of the relationship between the company and its local communities. Highlight both major employers and small businesses. Shine a light on the best of the community and advocate for – and participate in – improvement. Show that you intimately know what life is like within the communities you serve.
Traditional business thinking says that a company will be successful if it has a great value proposition. In this age of massive consumer buying choices and immediately shared rating within a client culture, going to market on value alone risks that a company will be perceived as a commodity. The companies that will be the most successful will go to market on both value and relevance.
The world is complex. There’s a lot happening in it and it happens to your clients. If your company only wants to be relevant to them when you’re trying to sell something and they’re somewhat interested in buying it, okay. But that means you are choosing to be irrelevant to them for the rest of the time, which is a dangerous strategy.
Your company may understandably want to stop short of taking a social activism position on world events, but your client experience can still reflect an understanding that the world exists beyond the company-client relationship. It can show some attitude about what is beautiful about the human condition and make some comment about when that human condition is despairing to any reasonable human being. After all, people don’t trust companies, they trust people.
Always Do This
- Take a social (humanistic, not political) stand on world events that significantly affect your clients’ lives. Don’t pretend that the world isn’t happening outside of your company.
- For B2B clients, offer support – empathy, insight, solutions, community -- for urgent and chronic business issues.
- For B2C clients, offer support for issues that affect clients’ lives, above and beyond their business with your company.
Control the Damage Ahead of Time
Your clients’ awareness of your company’s experience is most acute when something has gone wrong. This is the time when the experience means the most and when they’re most convinced they’ll be let down or forced to be their own vigorous advocate. By an unfortunate coincidence, this is typically the time when they’re fundamentally let down by most companies or forced to be their own vigorous advocate.
That it doesn’t happen at your company is the point; your clients have faced this from other companies and they anticipate and judge your company accordingly. Even the most advantaged client has experienced more bad service than good service. To combat this misperception your experience has to be as spectacular and signature and sustainable when things go wrong as when things go right.
When things go wrong, companies are generally at their reactionary, defensive, uncoordinated worst. This will allow your company to be at its outstanding, coordinated best. You should almost be hoping for something to go wrong to prove how good your client experience really is.
It includes exaggerating the response and resolution to any problem, for the same reason that exaggerating other facets of the support experience will create legends amongst client cultures.
Always Do This
- Plan ahead for what can go wrong in the client experience. Develop a brandable response for each situation. Write them down, make access immediately available to all involved employees, and practice responses like fire drills.
- Make your clients whole for the damage they’ve incurred. It’s not enough to simply rectify the problem; they’ve still had to endure that problem.
- Give authority to employees to resolve as many problems as possible. Management should be notified when the problems occur but not step in unless a situation has escalated to that level or the employee wants to show a client that management is aware of the issue.