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If a good customer experience matters, what does it take to ensure a good one?

Within the last few months, I’ve read many articles focused on what your company can do or is doing to survive this economy. I’ve read about the importance of customer experience and how tied it is to project success. What I haven’t read about is how to encourage your company to improve that customer experience. Saying it and doing it are two very different things.

Being in this business almost thirty years and focusing the last eight specifically on customer experience, I thought I could add what I’ve learned to the ongoing discussion on how to improve your customer experience.

Before I begin, let me define customer experience as I see it: Customer experience is an equal balance of enjoyment, professionalism, and respect.

Enjoyment—no reason why working together shouldn’t be fun. Enjoyment and functionality are also two different things. If you allow your business to support the culture of enjoyment, you allow for socialization with clients and their passion about training to bubble over. Functionality should be apparent in the design and the content.
Professionalism—both sides feel project is on time, budget, and there were no major disruptions.
Respect—either side exhibits trust or respect for the other. May or may not be tied to project directly.

However you wish to define customer experience, three factors still influence customer experience and how it ties to project success: culture, technology, and process.

This week, we will tackle culture. First, let me state that I am referring to your business culture and the business culture of your client—not your personal culture.

Know Your Client
By knowing your customers’ culture, and by having an open enough culture in your own business to be able to align yourself with your customers’, you will be able to be more empathetic, understanding, and adaptable to their needs.

While you work with a business, you must not forget that you work with specific people. These people have roles, unique needs, and time constraints. By being able to customize and adapt your processes enough to work with these issues, you are aligning yourself to their business culture.

Cardinal Rules of Customer Experience
Cardinal rules that guide the customer experience. As a company, your objective should be to make sure that every component of your company as it engages in the client from the initial communication on the website, through the way you present yourselves, through the way you reach out and connect, through the way you scope and engage, through the way you close and set up, through the way you project manage design and develop, even through the way you collect the money and how you approach your accounts receivable. All components must have the same quality.

Don’t Assume, Ask
Do not let a perceived dissatisfaction go untreated. Ask what is behind it as it could be anything. That is why you look at the person and what his/her unique needs are. Have they changed? Be attentive and strive for enjoyment as this will command respect. That is part of the company culture you should believe in.

Part of being able to give good customer experience is not being afraid to isolate what would lead to a bad one. A great product at the end will make that project successful but will not make that relationship successful. You have to strive to go beyond just delivering a good product, but also a great relationship.

Clients don’t come to you just to produce content; they come for your expertise. Good design is not a commodity because it relates to people’s creativity. A template does not equal good design; it is a tool. And like a can of spray paint, it is only on the hands of a good designer that it welds amazing art.

Learn from the Past
All companies have had bad customer experiences. No one has a perfect record, even if it wasn’t your fault that the customer left. But what can you do with that experience, what can you learn? Look to your longevity in the market and consistent growth. Look to your investments based on your contribution to the customer experience. Look to where you alleviate some issues that would cause a negative customer experience. Look for consistency in how you treat clients regardless of the size of the project.

Remember, a good experience leads to good projects. Ultimately, we are talking about how you grow a relationship between you and your client.

For this to work well, you need to have the right technology and processes in place. But start with the right attitude and culture first.

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