When I say client experience, what do you hear?
I wouldn’t be surprised if you answered with…
“Sounds like a lot of work.”
“Isn’t that the same thing as customer service?”
“What the heck?”
Don’t worry, if you haven’t heard of the term “client experience” you aren’t alone.
But whether or not you have or haven’t heard of it…your business has one.
Your business has an experience you may not even be aware of.
But we need to change that.
[After reading this article, check out the Stacey Brown Randall Live Show (episode 18) where I go more in depth on the first two steps of the 4 steps of a client experience.]
The client experience is a crucial part of your business and all of your clients experience it – whether they are a new client or have been a client for 10+ years. The client experience, or CX, for short dictates the feelings, attitude, and behaviors your clients have towards your business.
- Feeling thrilled to be a client and wanting to tell others.
- Having a positive attitude toward you and your business.
- Behavior like coming back for more help, becoming a repeat client.
- Feeling confused and less than thrilled with working with you.
- Developing a negative attitude toward your business.
- Behaviors like not becoming a repeat client or telling others about their sub-par experience.
Since the CX dictates the success you have (or don’t have) with your clients, it is important you understand it.
So in this article I am going to unpack the four crucial steps of the CX. This is a critical component for your business to be successful and there is a lot riding on that success. Not just positive attitudes and feelings toward your business but real money, like turning new clients into repeat clients and new clients being referred to you.
As we jump into the first two steps of the four crucial steps (step 3 and step 4 will follow in the next article, part two), please do me a favor. Suspend all thoughts of the amount of work you think might be involved, what it may or may not cost and how you would ever find the time to implement it (I know, time is super scarce these days).
I have those concerns covered.
And you might be pleasantly surprised (actually, I know you will be).
4 Crucial Steps to a Killer Client Experience (CX)
- Understand the CX foundation
- How to start a CX for maximum impact
- Determine your CX stages
- How to nail the authentic WOW
If you want to learn more about these 4 crucial steps and how to apply them immediately to your Client Experience, sign up for the FREE 5 Day Sticky Client Experience Challenge. Every day from February 5 – 9, 2018 you will receive a email with a small, daily action or “challenge” so you can improve your Client Experience and become more referable.
Let’s dive in.
Crucial Step #1: Understanding the CX foundation
There are three key pieces you need to understand to apply a client experience (CX) within your business. I call this the CX foundation. The three key pieces of the CX foundation are understanding what a CX is, when it actually starts for a client and why it matters to your business. Think of your CX as a 3-legged stool.
What is a CX?
A client experience is the experience or journey all clients go through after they make the decision to buy your product or service. Some CX are short and some are longer. It all depends on your specific business, industry and how you structure your service offerings.
To truly understand a CX, let’s put it in context with a quote from Maya Angelou…
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
[Emphasis added is mine.]
In short, a client experience is how you make a client feel.
But before you start thinking a CX is all about the warm and fuzzies or is some obtuse metric that is impossible to measure and delivering on a feeling for each and every client is impossible because all clients are different…it is not.
I also know at this moment you may start to question how you can even accomplish delivering on a feeling, an experience not just for one client but for each and every one of your clients.
Spoiler alert – you deliver on a client experience through a repeatable process.
To you – as the business owner – it is a repeatable process – but to the client what they see, feel and go through with you is an experience and it impacts how they feel about your business.
And this repeatable process has two parts to it…think of it as an equation or formula. The two parts are the work you do – work touch points – and the relationship you build – relationship touch points.
Every CX has both.
Think of the CX as a proposal for marriage…I know, I know…stick with me.
A marriage proposal typically involves an engagement ring and one person asking another person to marry them.
Let’s apply this to your CX.
The “work” you do, like completing paperwork, compiling information, delivering the service, following up to check in, that is the engagement ring. When you propose, there is an expectation of an engagement ring. When I decide to work with you the “work” you will do is what I know I am buying.
As a client I am buying “the hardware” so to speak. But while I show off my “hardware” or the ring after you propose, I talk about – to my friends, family, really anyone who will listen – how you proposed.
The how you proposed (like in a hot air balloon as my husband did) is the story I tell, how I felt during it, what happened that made it special…that “how you proposed” is the relationship you build with your clients. It’s making them feel like they are more than a number, you hear them when they talk, troubleshoot issues and show you care. They know they matter by the relationship you build with them.
And creating this two-part formula in your business is easier than you think and I have some resources coming up that will help you. Let’s keep going. We need to understand the other two parts of the foundation.
When does it start?
The client experience starts from the moment a buyer says “Yes, I want to work with you.”
Most believe the client experience starts from the moment a prospective client learns about your business, checks out your website or has a meeting with you to learn about your business. But that is the buyer’s journey.
A buyer or prospect (prospective client) goes through a process as they make the decision to buy. The three stages are typically described as awareness, consideration and decision. Meaning they will acknowledge they have a problem (awareness stage), assess the features and benefits (consideration stage) and ultimately make an emotional decision to work with you and then rationalize that decision logically (decision stage). You do need to have a process for how you handle that journey but that is out of the scope of this article.
Though the buyer’s journey and the CX is sometimes confused as the same or one long process, the buyer’s journey is separate from your client experience.
The client experience starts when a buyer makes the decision to do business with you. I call this turning on the “let’s do this” green light.
Why does it matter?
There are three main reasons why having a client experience is crucial and each of those reasons has a financial impact on your business.
Reason #1: Repeat Clients
If your business is the type of business where clients can and should be doing business with you again and again then repeat clients are critical to your bottom line.
Did you know that the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70% while the probability of selling to a new client is only 5-20%? (According to Marketing Metrics.)
Think about that for a minute…it is much less work (time, energy, dollars) to sell to a current client than to a new client. It’s not that your business doesn’t need to bring in new clients but your CX is a critical process to help you grow and secure business from existing, repeating clients.
Reason #2: Brand reputation and buzz factor
When clients love you, they will talk about you. Now I don’t mean they will post every positive interaction on social media. And they may not talk about you to everyone they know. But they do spread the love, in their own way.
When clients are happy, they help set your reputation in the marketplace and increase your buzz factor. And keep in mind, you don’t need hundreds or thousands of people talking about you…just some raving fans who will talk about you or mention you when the opportunity presents itself.
Reason #3: Referrals
Of course, right? Yes. You cannot receive referrals without a strong CX because a CX makes you referable. It makes you worthy of the trust a referral source places in you when they refer their friend, colleague, family member or client. Which is why it is crucial that your CX be an intentional process within your business and is not choppy. If you want referrals you have to be worthy to receive them. A client experience makes you worthy.
Okay, now you understand the 3-legged stool of the Client Experience Foundation. Now let’s move on to the second step.
Crucial Step #2: How to Start a CX for Maximum Impact
What I mean by “how to start” are the early steps in a client experience that set you up for maximum success.
And the best news?
This part – getting the early steps right – can be entirely free.
The early steps in a CX focus on the types of expectation you set with your clients.
Merriam-Webster’s has two simple definition of expectation.
: a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen, anticipation
: a feeling or belief about how successful something will be, assurance
Focus in on those definitions…a belief something is going to happen – anticipation – and a feeling of it being good or successful – assurance. Your clients have an anticipation of assurance when they decide to work with you.
That is why they are saying yes to working with you.
But that doesn’t mean what they expect to happen is what is actually going to happen…in the way they are imagining it happening.
But we do want to build off of our clients’ feelings of anticipation and assurance. Which means setting their expectations correctly and early is crucial.
Remember, your clients want working with you to be great…but you need to help mold their expectations so they can put in context what they think is going to happen with what is actually going to happen.
No need for them thinking it will be all rainbows, unicorns, parties and sunshine when it won’t be. (Really, can it ever be?)
When setting expectations with clients you have two main points to consider:
- The process of working with you
- How best to communicate with you
The reasons to set these two types of expectations are many but a few key reasons are:
- To make sure you have a starting point to refer back to if and when things get off course because of the client, you or forces outside of your control.
- When a client knows what to expect – the steps we will go through, what is expected of them and what could go wrong – they can relax and trust the process
- When the client impacts the process (i.e. missing deadlines, delaying sending you information you need) you have a built-in roadmap to communicate how this impacts the outcome.
- If a certain type of communication is needed, you need to get your client on board early to understand how they need to participate in the process. (And let’s be honest, if you are really bad at one communication channel – mine is voicemail – tell them upfront and provide the ways that do work for you so you can do your best work for them.)
Expectation setting is crucial and relatively easy. But is one part everyone overlooks. Whether it is an overload of clients already squeezing time or just rushing through to “close the deal,” you need to set up those first few moments of a CX well.
The Expectation Road Map
When teaching a student of my Sticky Client Experience online program to build their CX, we always start with building a “road map.” The “Expectation Road map” outlines the steps from start to finish of what it is like to work with you.
The road map comes in many forms, what is most important is that you have one.
You use the road map to guide your conversation regarding hiccups that can occur, how long different parts take and provide other information they need to know so they can know what to expect. And though the road map is allowing you to set expectations, explain “the rules” if you will, it can be as fun as you want to make it.
The “Expectation Road Map” guides the “what to expect” conversation very early in the process so your clients aren’t left to make up or assume what the process will be like working with you.
When we allow our clients to assume, it is usually never a good thing. (Remember the saying…”you know what happens when you assume”…you make an a$$ out of you and me…ass-u-me.)
Let’s avoid that.
So have your expectation road map ready to go…this one step is crucial to getting your CX started correctly, from the beginning.
Now you understand what is a CX and how to start it successfully (in the next article, we’ll tackle steps 3 and 4). But right now, I encourage you to take two small but BOLD actions for your business.
1. Sign up for the FREE 5 Day Sticky Client Experience Challenge so you can learn – over the course of one week (Feb. 5 – 9, 2018) how to apply the four crucial steps to your Client Experience. You receive a daily email with a small action or “challenge” to complete and by the end of the week you have an improved, more stickier CX!
2. Get a handle on how your CX performs right now. Grab the quick and easy assessment below – just a couple of questions and you can rate your CX. If you aren’t pleased with your rating, then use the link above to sign up for the FREE 5 Day Sticky Client Experience Challenge!
Okay, up next we will tackle steps 3 and 4 of building a killer client experience…determine your CX stages and how to nail the authentic WOW in your CX. Can’t wait!