The concepts of primacy and recency dictate that in any encounter we tend to remember what happened first and what happened most recently. Exceptions abound, but the law of primacy reminds us that first impressions matter — in life and in the customer experience.
While optimizing the customer experience should generally be approached holistically — with a view towards making sure the customer’s entire experience is the best it can be — in this post, I would like to talk about some universal approaches to kickstarting the customer experience at the very beginning.
Optimizing The Initial Customer Experience
1. Set (or Reset) Expectations So You Can Exceed Them
First time customers come to you with preconceived notions about what your product or service will be like. Whether from your own marketing or the person who referred them, first time customers will create their own expectations; it is your job to participate in that process and help guide the customer’s expectations to a place where you can deliver and exceed. The job is not done with repeat customers however; accrued expectations must be understood and sometimes reset.
2. Personalize When Possible
Depending on your product or service, do everything you can to personalize the initial customer experience. From saying your customer’s name to tailoring your product or service specifically to your customer’s needs, anything you can do to personalize the experience at the outset immediately differentiates you from the majority of companies that your customer has interacted with.
3. Start with a Surprise
Who doesn’t love receiving something extra? Whether it’s a quick service add-on for first time customers or an extra carrying case for repeat buyers, starting off the customer experience with a positive surprise sets the tone for the rest of the customer’s journey with your company. Surprises do not have to be elaborate or costly; check out this 5-Second Wow as an example.
4. Get The Customer to the Right Place, Fast
If your business is one where the customer has to be routed — to the correct extension, the correct office, or the correct anything — then maximizing the speed at which your customers get to the proper place in your organization is paramount.
You can provide your customers an excellent experience once they reach your fulfillment department, but if it takes 20 minutes to figure out that’s where they need to be — the rest of the experience will at best only put salve on the wound.
5. Slow Down Once They Get There
Once you have the customer in the correct place, slow down. You should deliver the customer experience as fast as is appropriate for the setting and for the customer. If you are in fast food, the food should be fast. If you are delivering an all day “Start for a Day” treatment, you should not rush the person from the makeup artist to the hair stylist. The setting matters, as does reading the individual customer’s body language and demeanor.
The customer should never feel rushed, and you should make sure that your team always slows down enough at the beginning of the experience to let the customer know that your organization cares enough to get it right.
6. Hold Some Back for Later
Do not use all of your best stuff at the beginning of the customer experience. You will be setting high (but realistic) expectations if you kickstart the customer experience off right — you’ll need to keep some things in reserve to exceed those expectations later in the customer experience.
Use What Works
Obviously, not every piece of the generalized advice above will fit the customer experience you are trying to deliver. However, if you take time to focus on the first moments of your typical customer’s experience, you will find that delivering excellence at the crucial beginning phase will pay dividends later on.
After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.