Comcast provides the high-speed internet that allows me to publish this post from my home. The service is functional and necessary and to me, worth the $80.50 that I pay each month.
That doesn’t mean I like them.
They are a pain to deal with and make me feel like a number in an endless stream of customers. They make me feel dispensable.
In other words, if Comcast went away, I wouldn’t miss them. In fact, I’d dump them in a heart beat if given a better alternative.
Yes, they have my business now. No, they haven’t earned my loyalty, trust, or referral.
Because they treat me as nothing more than a recurring check, I will treat them as replaceable when the next one comes along.
Let’s look at another example.
Starbucks provides my coffee. Like Comcast, I pay them money for a product. Unlike the internet market, however, the coffee market is saturated. I could step out, walk a mile in any direction and have 50 coffee shops to choose from, many of which could provide a caffeinated drink equally satisfying as Starbucks.
This begs the question.
Why isn’t Starbucks replaceable to me? Why do 5 million people, myself included, visit Starbucks every day? Yes, they make a great coffee, but so do the others.
Great coffee is not the hard part.
The hard part is the care they’ve taken to create the unique experience that myself and 5 million others expect when we visit.
When I purchase my tall Pike roast, I am not buying coffee.
I am buying the warmly lit atmosphere where I can sit and listen to the eclectic musical selection assembled by a team of Seattle hipsters, hired to enhance my in-store experience.
I am buying the cozy leather chairs next to the fire place where I can read a newspaper and chat with the other regulars.
I am buying the enthusiastic “Morning, Joe!” greeting the baristas give me when I enter the doors.
I am buying the convenience of using my phone to pay for drinks and track my rewards.
In short, Starbucks has created something so unique that if they were to suddenly disappear, I would miss them.
When customers trust in you, when they are loyal, when they see you as credible, and when they happily refer you to friends, you’ve become irreplaceable.
So here’s the question: What type of experience are you providing for your customers?
Is it better or worse then your competition? Is it just enough to sell your product, or do you care enough to make your clients walk away feeling so good about working with you that not only will they come back, they’ll tell their friends about how awesome you are.
Yes, great product is important, but it doesn't make you irreplaceable. What makes you irreplaceable is the experience you create for your customers.
Here are 5 simple things I do to create an exceptional client experience
1. Care. At the end of the day, Starbucks cares and Comcast doesn’t. If you don’t truly care about giving your client the best experience in the world, it might be worth reflecting about why you’re in this business. Look at Apple. It’s no coincidence that the world’s highest valued company has created the world’s best customer experience. If Apple simply sold cool gadgets, they’d still be a profitable company. But because they care about creating a best in the world user experience, they now have an army of evangelists that not only continue to buy Apple products, but post, tweet and share about how awesome those products are.
2. Under promise, over deliver. By under promise, I’m not suggesting you short-change your client. I am suggesting that when you agree to deliver a product or service, you should know in your mind that you’ll be able to give them just a little more than what you agreed to. This will give them a great lasting impression, and make them feel good about doing business with you. It will also establish a level of trust that you deliver what you say you will and beyond.
3. Write a hand-written thank you. Not only does a hand written card stand out, but it shows that you truly appreciate their business. The last thing a client wants to feel like is a number. Writing a personal thank you lets them know you appreciate them, even if they are one of many clients. It also suggests that if you care enough to say thank you, you care enough to give them your best work.
4. Be easy to do business with. The easier and simpler it is for someone to work with you, the more they’ll want to work with you. Why does Starbucks invest so much money in selling me a Starbucks card when they make the same profit from a cash purchase? Because when I have a card, it makes purchasing simple. Whether I’m in the airport, in a new city, or in my neighborhood store, I know I can pull out my phone and use my Starbucks card app to grab a coffee. With my clients, I make it a priority to respond to emails and phone calls fast. I make my proposals simple, beautiful and easy to navigate. I am accommodating and flexible, even when they may not be. And I am always thinking about ways I can communicate and work with clients that will make their life just a little easier. They may not notice it right away, but over time, they’ll associate you with a clean and simple experience that they'll want to come back to.
5. Be authentic. Think of a company you admire. Chances our they have a voice that’s unique to them. Whatever your business is, clients will appreciate you, and the experience you give them, if it comes from the heart. On the flip side, people can sense if you’re trying to be something you’re not. Spend some time creating an idea board with words that describe your product and your voice. By simply generating some key words, you'll have something tangible to refer back to that describes who you are, what you offer, and what you don't offer.
So there you have it. These are just a few things I strive to do for my clients. There are many more. I suggest making a list of the companies you admire and support, and identify the characteristics that attract you to them. How much of it is product, and how much is experience?