6 Can’t Miss Ways to Kickstart Your Customer’s Experience

March 25, 2013

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. 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.

12 thoughts on “6 Can’t Miss Ways to Kickstart Your Customer’s Experience”

  1. Time is a big factor. The faster you get them to the people they want, the stuff they need, the better. One thing I’m noticing is wait times; when I’m stuck in a waiting room, certain places like doctors offices etc. – where they know you’re gonna be kept waiting past time b/c they knowingly overbooked, ahem – they’re making nicer the rooms, more amenities, adding WiFi.

    Personalization works, even help diffuse some ‘threatening’ situations we discussed. When you address people by name, show those courtesies it builds a relationship w/ people, not just the businesses. And of course, you have to make the most of that only-get-it-once first impression and that won’t happen by accident. Means you have to think about it, plan for it, develop and refine your strategy for every new customer that walks in your door. FWIW.

    1. I had a doctor’s appointment — first time visit. The doc was 2 hours late getting to me. He’s still my doc, but in what other business would that be true? I’ve learned just to get the first appt in the morning (when possible), because you’re right, they do overbook.

      Good points Davina or how to execute on personalization. In many cases it is not that hard to find some way to personalize, but like you said, you have to think about it and plan for it.

  2. We’re in an era where the customer has an expectation for always tops customer service. Look at JC Penney. It’s in the slammer because it took away couponing/discounts. Now, that’s not customer service, per se, but it’s along those lines,

    When the customer is spoiled, businesses need to be fully aware of that before making moves to rock the boat.

    1. You know Jayme, that’s a great point. In many industries, customer expectations are up in general — regardless of the expectations related to your specific business. Everyone needs to up their game.

  3. I particularly like item #2. I counsel my clients to take in every bit of information they can about their customers and prospects, right from the start. The more we know about them, the more able we are to engage in a meaningful way, to build rapport, trust and “likeability”.

    It boggles my mind that we don’t use our senses (including common sense) enough. It’s easy to pick up on visual clues, read between the lines and simply really hear what someone’s real problem/challenge/question is. I do little tests with clients and ask them things like: what was the person wearing? What can you glean from that? Are they sophisticated, casual, sporty? Did you notice a family photo as they flipped open their wallet. Did you hear them sigh heavily, at which time you can commiserate with them kindly saying something like “tough day? let me try to lighten your load”…and on and on and on.

    Now maybe that doesn’t work when you’re dealing with hundreds of clients in a check-out/check-through capacity, but I maintain that a little extra power of observation and true interest (and actually smiling and looking the customer in the eye) goes a long, long way. Cheeers! Kaarina

    1. Anything, you can do to personalize is great (well, almost anything)!

      I like the advice you are giving your clients and to add to your comments, I would say that it works well when you are able to take in multiple data points and pieces of information. As you said, in quick checkout situations, people should be careful not to prejudge based on external factors. The old scene with Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman comes to mind.

      Thanks for the great comment!

  4. Pingback: Fresh Business Info – Saturday, March 30, 2013

  5. I think adding a WOW factor to your customer experience is a great idea but wonder how it could be translated into a meaningful and valuable concept for service (gas) stations – both self serve and full serve. Apart from cleaning their windshield, checking their oil or making sure they have enough air in their tyres (and/or inviting them to get something from the store) what else can staff do for our customers? We certainly can’t draw nice smiley faces on their cars (although I really loved that idea) but any WOW thoughts?

    1. Hey Gale! I would probably need more information to give you really good specific advice. Sounds like some of your stations are a bit different than here in the states — for instance, we have almost no full service stations anymore.

      I agree, smiley faces on cars probably isn’t a good idea. 🙂 I think there could be an opportunity to personalize the experience a little more if you have a decent amount of repeat business. Do you know what percent of your customers are repeat customers/regulars?

      1. Hi Adam,
        Thanks for responding! We have more than 50% – 75% repeat customers in most of our markets (more than 10 different territories) which is not bad but it would still be good to include an exceptional WOW concept to our customer service offering.

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