Let's start withwhy: WHY the Ideal Client Experience will Save Your Business
Choosing to build and implement an ideal client experience will save your business. I will tell you why.
In today's competitive marketplace, customer experience is key to differentiating your business and attracting new clients. More than 66% of companies are now competing primarily on the basis of customer experience (up from only 36% in the year before, according to a SuperOffice article way back in 2012). Recent data continues to show that client experience is crushing both price and product in the competitive fields of business.
You can imagine why. Access to products and information have gone through the roof in the internet age. What is left to compete on? Correct.
The human touch.
This is so important to understand that I have written a book on it. Did you know I have written a book that goes into more data details and takes this conversation to the next level? My new book is called NEVER DROP THE BALL AGAIN: How the Ideal Client Experience Will Save Your Business.
It was released on October 26, 2022.
Let me tell you a simple story to illustrate my point:
As a business advisor, I specialize in helping my clients attract and maintain the best people for their businesses. This includes the best donors for nonprofits. The best clients for financial advisors. The best investors for the benevolent developer. It also includes attracting and maintaining the best team members in the world. Without a great team and great team culture, no business has a fighting chance.
I recently had the opportunity to work with a small nonprofit of about a dozen employees and a little over $3 million in gross annual revenue. They were concerned with slow growth. They felt as if they were reaching a plateau, and they weren't sure what to do next. Some of the questions they were asking included:
- Should we increase spending on social media to attract new donors?
- Do we sponsor more public events to promote awareness?
- Do we host more fund-raising banquets to solicit support?
- Do we ask our present donors to give more?
All of these questions are legitimate, and I told them so. Then I asked the executive team in our brainstorming session, "Would you rather grow from the center, or grow from the edges."
I drew a picture of a tree on the whiteboard. It looked like this:
I drew an arrow to the outside of tree and explained, "This is growth from the edges. It is bright green leaves. It is the new people. The new people your business can try to reach out to. It is driven by social media ads and promotional campaigns for new people. Frankly, this is the sexy part of growth. It gets all the press, and it is where most marketing firms make their money."
They all nodded and gave some feedback on this kind of growth. Most of it was whining and complaining about the lack of measurable success data from their previous efforts.
Then I drew a line up through the middle of the tree. It came from the roots up through the trunk. Then I said, "This is growth from the center. It is stable and long-term. It is growing with present donors and partners. It is the people they are personally connected to. It grows from their advocacy; however, it is not sexy. Much of this growth won't be seen on social media or celebrated in your newsletters. That said, it is still a real opportunity."
They came out of their seats.
Everyone spoke at once, but the CEO had the most to say. "H.B. this is what we want! Our best growth has always been by word of mouth and personal introductions. We have tons of people who love us and have given over the years. We simply don't know how to do better in this area. We don't know how to build on what we have. Can show us how?"
I will tell you how this turned out at the end of the article. First, let me guide you through the basics of building a client journey map and the amazing outcomes of crafting an excellent customer journey that leads to healthy growth. I want to show you exactly HOW this whole client experience thing produces results.
HOW the Ideal Client Experience will Save Your Business
Do you want to grow your business? Of course, you do! But it's not just about growing for the sake of growth. It's about growing in the right way, with the right clients. The key to attracting and retaining your ideal clients is providing them with an exceptional experience. It is time to learn about customer experience and how you can use it to save your business.
How does great client experience give you the edge? Let’s name three of the most obvious reasons:
1. Client Retention
First, it will improve client retention. In your business what costs more time, money and effort: Keeping your present clients or winning new ones? You may already know that it costs five times as much to acquire new customers than it does to keep current ones (Forrest).
2. Team Culture
Second, it will boost team culture. More than ever, people choose to stay engaged in jobs they love and jobs they feel are making a difference. What costs you more time, money, and effort: Retaining present team members or hiring and onboarding new ones? It may cost up to 150% of a technical employees salary to replace them (PeopleKeep). And (OfficeVibe) shows 70% of employees say having a friend at work is critical. Treating customers with great respect leads to treating one another with great respect, and this builds great company culture.
3. Client Advocacy
Finally, it will create client advocates. If the first two reasons were phrased from a cost-saving point of view, let’s look at client experience from a positive angle. What grows revenue in your company faster: Repeat client loyalty or securing and selling to new clients you have never met? The data shows average companies tend to lose 50% of their customers in 5 years and 50% of their employees in 4 years (The Loyalty Effect, Reichheld). What do you think even a slight improvement in client loyalty would do for your growth?
Let's ask another question on the same topic. What would help you grow you business better: Your top clients advocating for you among their peers, or a marketing team introducing you to strangers? Businesses are three times more likely to sell a product to an existing customer than to a new prospect. When launching new marketing efforts to boost revenue (Marketing Metrics), and ahead of all other trust metrics, 83% report they completely or somewhat trust the advice of friends and family (Nielsen).
You may believe I'm being dramatic with the imperative "How the Ideal Client Experience Will Save Your Business." Sure, I could have said more gently, "How to Create an Ideal Customer Experience That Will Grow Your Business." Sometimes drama is better.
This is your business we are talking about.
This is not a game.
It's time to wake up and start moving forward, or risk falling behind. There is a pressing strategic imperative for brands to compete on customer experience (CX) in nearly every industry. Consumers have spoken on what’s most important to them in a modern customer experience; privacy, consistency across multiple channels, a deep understanding – and appreciation of – customer needs and personalization. (RedPointGlobal)
HOW to create your own Ideal Client Experience
- It's Not About You
- Get Into Your Customer's Shoes
- Get your team onboard
- Identify the danger zones
- Plan to review, repair, and repeat
Let's break it down:
It's Not About You
There are questions that our customers are asking at each stage of their experience with us. The million dollar question: Do we know what those questions are?
Our clients, donors, or investors bring previous experiences to every moment in their journey with us. They have heart-level concerns. They have emotional questions. They have already cataloged memories of every step of their journey with previous companies. So, what would happen if you predicted these questions and had a system to answer them every time?
What would happen in your business if your customers were convinced that you understood them? That you really cared? That you were deeply acquainted with their side of the equation? What would happen if you built your business framework around your client’s questions instead of your product and services?
What you're thinking is correct. The prospect of answering your clients' prior inquiries would be remarkable. Even more so if we were solely concerned with creating this experience for our dream client.
It has never been about you.
It has always been about them.
The July-August 2022 issue of the Harvard Business Review is titled, “Know What Your Customers Want: Even Before They Do.” The article treats getting into your clients’ shoes like quantum physics. As it turns out: empathy is a predictive science—for the successful business owner. Now, this article may underline the dark side of data mining for client behavior, but we are taking the high road. There is still much to appreciate about understanding those you are working with so you can truly understand what they need.
Get Into Your Customer's Shoes
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. In business, this means putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. It's a way of seeing the world from their perspective.
You've probably heard this before. We often tell people to, "walk a mile in someone else's shoes." This is empathy. And it is critical for businesses today. Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is feeling bad for someone. Empathy is understanding why they feel bad and taking action to participate in helping them.
When you show empathy as a business owner, you can begin to anticipate your customers' needs—even before they do. You know what they are going to want even before they are able to articulate it. This means we must understand the questions our clients are asking through every step of the customer journey.
There are a few ways to get into your customer's shoes. One way is to simply ask them what they are thinking. This can be done through surveys, interviews, or social media posts. You can also look at your analytics to see what questions people are asking on your website or in your chatbots.
Another way to get into your customer's shoes is to observe them. Watch how they interact with your product or service. See how they react to different aspects of their experience. Where do they step in and out of your website? What posts do they engage the most? What does their body language tell you during your meetings? Can you identify wins and losses in body language over the course of a meeting? This can help you understand their experience and anticipate their needs.
The last way to get into your customer's shoes is to put yourself in their position. Imagine that you are the customer and think about the questions you would ask. Try to understand their perspective and what they are trying to achieve. Role play is important. Until we literally put on our "customer cap" and walk around, it is very difficult to exercise true empathy.
Get Your Team Onboard
Your team is the second most important part of this strategy (after your clients, of course). If you want to implement an excellent customer experience, you need to get your team on board.
There are a few ways to do this:
1. Get everyone in the same room and have a conversation about what an excellent customer experience looks like. Brainstorming is key. Open conversations are necessary. Everyone needs a chance to see how important customer experience management is for the success of the firm.
2. Give everyone a copy of the book: NEVER DROP THE BALL AGAIN, and ask them to read it. (Gratuitous plug.) There are many resources on cultivating empathy, but my book focuses on creating a system for empathy. This will help everyone get on board. Even those who do not claim to be naturally empathetic can still find a strong supporting role in a clear, methodical system of postive customer experience.
3. Take your team through the process of creating a client journey map. Working as a team to create a road map that works through all 8 steps of the ICX strategy will get the entire company onboard. Your team will discover very quickly where most customers have great experience and where some become unhappy customers. The attention you give to seeing the entire customer experience as a holistic journey, the faster you will see result.
4. Set up a system where employees can give feedback about their experience. Everyone needs to know their voice counts. Most companies try to drive ICX (Ideal Client Experience) from the top. We propose that understanding and nurturing the customer journey map becomes a company-wide priority. You can't build customer loyalty if you don't have employee loyalty. It starts with your team and then flows to your customers. One supports the other.
If we want to win the game of client experience and wow your ideal clients, we'll need to establish a system that is specifically tailored for them. It will have to operate in tandem with your whole team. Our entire staff will need to focus only on this one measurable goal. We can't count on a select few members of our team who are naturally compassionate. Even those who are more analytical should be able to participate if we have a practical empathy-system that allows everyone on our team to take part.
Identify the Danger Zones (And Start There)
Where are your team's weak links when it comes to the customer experience? This is where you need to focus your attention. These are the areas where you are falling short and need to make some changes.
Trying to fix everything all at once is too hard. Making a myriad of small improvements across the customer's experience may not give the desired result. Why? There may be danger zones that are negatively affecting your best customers in ways that cost you the future of their business. Let's identify the problem areas and solve them one at a time. There are a few Danger Zones that you should keep in mind:
1. The first Danger Zone might be related to an unclear value proposition. This happens when customers can't find what they are looking for or they don't understand what you are selling them. They might not be sure of who you are or what you stand for. Fixing this problem requires strong branding and a clear message that resonates with your customers.
2. Another Danger Zone is when the customer feels ignored or unimportant. This often happens when they have to jump through too many hoops to get help or when they feel like their question is stupid. Fixing this problem requires making sure your team is available and helpful and that your systems are easy to use.
3. A common Danger Zone for advisory professionals is when the customer feels like they are being sold to. This happens when they feel as if they are being forced into a purchase or when the sale seems too good to be true. Fixing this problem requires making sure your team is honest and trustworthy and that your products and services are worth the price tag.
4. Ultimately, it is your job, along with your team, to identify any step in the customer experience that is not serving them well. This could be a broken website, a malfunctioning product, or poor customer service. Fixing this problem requires making sure your systems are running smoothly and that your team is prepared to handle customer inquiries. When you meet with your team and look over all 8 steps of the customer experience, take some time to circle the place that is causing them most problems. That is where you should apply all your effort for the next 30 days.
Plan to Review, Repair, and Repeat
Once you have discovered the Danger Zone, then make a plan to improve it immediately. Take suggestions. Assign leaders. Distribute tasks. And, above all, set a period of work not longer than 30 days to conquer the problem. Teams need clear goals and reasonable periods to get things done. The faster the reviews, the faster rewards can be given. The faster the measurable reports are shared, the faster adjustments can be made. Set clear goals. Set an end date for the work. And then fire the starter gun.
Here is how I would encourage you to do it:
First, get the team around the table and map the client journey. I will take you step-by-step through this 8 step process in my book, NEVER DROP THE BALL AGAIN. Each step is a chance to empathize with your best clients. To get into their shoes. You will have an opportunity to write out both their primary questions as well as your best answers to those questions.
Second, identify the Processes and the People who are involved in delivering the client experience in each of the 8 steps. Learn where there are gaps or overlaps. Identify the places your client experience is solid and celebrate your team for their winning leadership in these areas.
Third, now it is time to identify the Danger Zones as noted above in this articles. Which of the 8 steps is struggling the most? Time to get focused. Don't try to fix everything. Make a team decision to focus on one area in the next 30 days.
Finally, here is where Review, Repair, and Repeat become clear. In these first three steps, we outlined how to do a thorough review of your client journey map and begin the process of repairing the weak spot. After the first 30 day attack, it will be time to reward successes. Mark your progress. It will also be time to take note of significant obstacles and chokepoints to improvement and make decisions about what to change in the next 30 days. Now it is time to Repeat. Repeat the entire process.
- Map the 8 step journey again to get everyone refreshed and back on board
- Outline the People and the Processes that support each step.
- Identify the strong points and the weak points in the journey.
- Plan to attack the weak point for 30 days. This is where the team must collaborate on the root of the issue. They must brainstorm the best way to create improvement in 30 days. They must also decide on measurable actions and team leadership in order to implement a real plan.
The outcome of making the Ideal Client Experience a regular part of your business playbook will change everything. It will save your business.
Whether your client experience travels for a few seconds on the internet or for a lifetime in one-to-one engagements, learning to build an ideal client experience is the beginning of your new success. You must systematize empathy. You must require your entire team to learn, get excited, and get on board. Ultimately, your whole company will begin to circle this growth axiom:
It has never been about us.
It has always been about them.
This final note does lead us to one question we did not have time to cover in this short read. Do you know who your ideal clients are? Do you have a singular, clear profile of that client that makes you smile when you win them and get to claim them as loyal customers? It is critically important that you learn how to distill your present client list down to your best clients. You must create an ideal client profile. Well, maybe that will be the subject of my next article. Or maybe my next book.
Oh, I almost forgot. Do you remember the nonprofit I told you about at the top of this article? Well, they achieved their annual growth goal of increasing their annual revenue by 15%. That was a growth rate they had never experienced before.
What was more astounding to me was the effect client experience had on their annual banquet. The annual fundraising banquet was a traditional affair. Normally, everyone was invited. Org reports were given. Appeals were made. The results had been fairly predictable and not very good. The team had thought about canceling it for the year.
Instead, we set in motion a plan to allow client experience to dominate the event in every way. Here are some of the things they did: The guest list was cut down to include only a tiny segment of their donor base. It was the ideal donor segment. This segment was identified primarily by enthusiasm for the primary mission of the nonprofit. Then, they cut all the tired reporting that had dominated the PowerPoints and stage presentations in past seasons. Instead, they invited only short personal stories and testimonials from staff and donors. They showed a short movie full of the faces of the people they served. All of the messaging from start to finish was connecting the known passions of their audience to the purpose of the banquet. This commitment to connecting the donor's passions with the nonprofit mission filled every aspect of the event, not just the banquet event. It included invitations, phone calls, table cards, speakers, presentations, and 1:1 hospitality work. Why? They were getting into their donor's shoes. They asked themselves, during their planning season:
- "What are these donors already excited about?"
- "What do these donors want to talk about?"
- "Where does our mission intersect with our donor's primary motivations?"
As a result, during the banquet itself, the leadership team spent most of their time introducing the attendees to one another, asking the donors for their stories, and they spent very little time talking about themselves. They created a very positive experience for their donors and made their feelings an integral part of the event.
The banquet cost was cut by 75%. The gross receipts went up 100%. They doubled. I will say it one more time: they doubled their donations on one-quarter of the normal budget. And this was during 2021.
There are a few key things to keep in mind when creating your strategy:
- Keep your customer's needs and wants at the center of everything you do.
- Simplify and streamline their journey as much as possible.
- Focus on delivering an exceptional experience at every touchpoint.
- Make sure your entire team is aligned with your customer experience goals.
- Continuously measure and track your progress to ensure you are meeting your goals.
If you can keep these things in mind, you'll be well on your way to creating an Ideal Client Experience playbook for your business! Need help? I don't think you should have to do this alone, so if you need some help just reach out. Call me 719-633-Two Five One Five.
I bet you already have some win/lose stories in your own client experience work. Would you share them in the comments below?
H.B. Pasley, Growth Advocate℠