Are you a hard-working, passionate entrepreneur, ready to promote your company to the masses? You’re gung ho and prepping to go to market, from doing your research and locating the perfect facility to buying assets and coordinating with developers. There’s only one problem.
You forgot a core component of what it means to be in business. It’s about people.
So many entrepreneurs forget to ask, “Will people enjoy their experience?”
From the very beginning, customer experience is vital to your success.
In our connected world, where a bad Yelp review is a click away, you can’t go to market without a clear plan for pleasing customers. To do so risks tarnishing your reputation before you even get going. Positive experiences will yield feedback that can be leveraged into future sales, while a negative review is quickly plastered all over the internet. Here are some quick tips on how to start your company with the customer experience in mind:
Don’t design something for yourself. It may seem obvious, but think about your product from the users’ perspective. (I call this Empathetic Design.) Understand your user base and what they’re looking for. Generally, people want clarity and simplicity, so if you can simplify your product/service without losing value, do it!
Next, ask your early adopters for feedback and conduct user research. Measurable data through user-testing is extremely valuable. Understanding how users use your product/service to complete a task will save you time and money. Once your product/service gains traction, listen to what users are saying and make changes quickly. If people are blogging or posting reviews, take the time to read and consider. Compliments and insults are valuable.
Finally, understand when an idea is not worth pursuing. Sometimes we allow our own wants to cloud our vision. You might be trying to solve a problem that isn’t really a problem. Don’t be dissuaded if the current solution isn’t the best one. There are plenty of problems to solve, and being open to good UX processes and design might shed light on a better solution!
A sales funnel is of vital importance in the digital age. If you aren’t familiar, it’s what it sounds like—pour potential customers (prospects) in at the top, and through various steps, a percentage of prospects will get converted (funneled) through stages, eventually resulting in a sale. Each stage of the sales funnel represents an impression being formed about your company, so make sure you impress potential customers every step of the way!
Break your sales funnel down into stages and measure how well each stage converts. You may have a Google Adwords campaign driving traffic to your site, resulting in visitors. But don’t stop there. How many of these visitors become leads and why? Do you expect customers to “give” their contact information to you for free? Or are you offering a free trial of your software, a free appetizer at your restaurant, or a free download of an e-book? If so, how well is that working? However your sales funnel is formed, examine each stage independently, and measure the conversion rate for each one. Once you do that, you can see exactly where you’re losing potential sales. These metrics will allow you to begin tweaking and tuning your sales funnel and experimenting with results.
So you’ve attracted your first prospective customer--what now? It’s time to sell, but don’t forget that selling is all part of the customer experience.
The first thing you should know about selling is pick up the phone. Emails are fine, but the best selling experience is personal. In a sales call, your goal is to create a story about how your product or services can help the prospect, and the only way to do this effectively is to ask questions and actively listen. Questions like, “What are the biggest challenges you are facing?” and “How does your current solution work for you?” will give you key insights into your prospect.
When they speak, listen and interpret. Take a breath and think after they finish a statement. Talk more about their business and needs than your product or service, and never hard-sell, over-sell, or talk about price right away. Price ultimately makes up only about 20% of the purchase decision—most people are ready to pay if you can make their life easier.
Finally, end the call properly. Stress how and why your product or service will be a great fit. Then, end with an open-ended question like, “So what would be your next step?” This answer usually allows you to set a follow-up appointment.
Have you ever had a great meal and a crappy, grumpy server? Probably not, because the two are inextricably linked. Customer support is as much a feature of your company as the last bell or whistle your designers added. And when customers know you offer great support, they’ll choose you over the competition.
Conversely, when customer service is lacking, customers will leave you behind and tarnish your reputation. And yes, great customer support costs money, but think about it this way: finding only one new customer can cost you up to ten times as much as a return or referral customer. It isn’t an option in business; if you are going to win, you have to out-support your competitors.
There are inherent benefits from working toward great customer support, too: you get better by understanding how customers react to your company, your company becomes inspired, and any changes you need to make to your organization will naturally percolate from customer feedback.
Everyone at Masterplans knows what my favorite day of the week is. It’s Friday. And not because I’m looking forward to fishing or skiing over the coming weekend, but because I get to send letters and schwag to clients who’ve completed their business plans. I personally send each of our clients a thank you letter and a gift. With so much riding on being successful in business, it’s easy to overlook the very thing that keeps the lights on and food on the table: the customers. I’m deeply honored by each customer that has put their trust in our company, and I do my best to show that with a thoughtful letter and gift.
But let’s be honest: we’ve all gotten schwag that immediately goes in the trash. I try to offer customers something different—something relevant to their experience, their future, and the amount of money they spent—and most importantly, I send it from the heart. So far, customers seem to appreciate it.
Understanding and developing a great customer experience is how Masterplans has gained an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau for over a decade, one of the highest average ratings by employees on Glassdoor, and being named one of the 20 best places to work in Portland. Yes, a great customer experience takes time and money, but I can tell you first-hand that it’s what has set Masterplans apart from other business plan development companies over the last 17 years. We are continually relying on client feedback to get even better, every day.
How do you create a great customer experience?