14 ways to ace the customer experience
A business without customers doesn’t stay a business for very long. Customers make the world go round – providing the demand to your supply, and feeding funds back into your investment. So it really confuses me how many businesses ignore their customers – when they should be revolving their business around them.
Here at The Grounds, we do everything with the customer in mind. We create experiences specifically for them. When we come to work each day, we look at our products through the eyes of them and literally map out our spaces as they would experience them. Doing this helps remind us why we do this and makes us a better business.
Here are my 15 tips and thoughts on putting yourself in your customer’s’ shoes – and why it just makes good business sense.
1. Think ‘young’
Picasso once said that every child is an artist – the problem is how to remain an artist when he or she grows up. Now I’m not saying get out there and employ 4 year-olds and a bucket of crayons, but definitely look to have young people on your team – OR (and this is important) people of ALL ages who have young minds. Seriously, there are some “old” people who have sparkling minds – seek them all out to help solve problems.
2. Solve problems immediately
If customers have an issue with something, no matter how small, find a way to fix it. And don’t think that just because only one person says something that they are the only one. It’s likely that they are simply the one who decided to let you know. If you leave things, they just won’t get done and will pile up. That’s when customers will stop telling you things and just go elsewhere.
3. Always look to do better
Wake up each day ask yourself how can we experience the world better today. Seriously. Want that for your customers, and yourself.
4. Provide solutions to customer problems
There is a classic business example about an entrepreneur with a great new beach umbrella. He or she shouldn’t sit on the beach and focus on why his or her product is so amazing. Instead, it’s all about understanding the other beachgoers and the problems they have with their current umbrellas. Don’t simply market your product. Instead, identify those customers whose main problem is needing something that is easy to carry and put up – other things like cost or maximum shade are less important. That’s your target market.
5. Define your expertise
You need to know what you do better than everyone else. In the case of the beach umbrella, it’s smart engineering in a collapsible, portable product. That is the area of the market that you own. If you sell shoes, don’t try and be the city’s best cake shop too. Define what you do and then do THAT better than your competition.
6. Shout to the rooftops
Customers need to know WHY you’re better than all the rest – so tell them. Many small businesses and entrepreneurs struggle with this one, but seriously, why hide what makes you unique? If you’re truly unique, then you need your customers to know that YOU are the ONLY one that can solve their problems – so put it all out there.
7. Be human
The one thing that has stopped us from being taken over by robots is our distinct humanity. It doesn’t matter what kind of business you do, there will be SOME element of each day that involves interacting in some way with your customers. So get to know them – personally (but not in a creepy way). Show them you care and that you’re improving their life in some way right NOW.
At The Grounds, we’re a mix of direct and instinctive in-person interaction on a daily basis, as well as the digital and offline interactions we have with our customers. We’re constantly striving to add value to our customers’ experience – and even things like this blog are ways we do this.
8. Give your customers a sensory experience
The opportunity exists to IMMERSE your customers fully in your experience – and to engage all five of their senses. This happens through providing activities for your guests, so that they become active participants in the environment. Or to learn and engage with something as part of the experience. Entertain them, educate them, provide music, laughter and more. The goal is to have your guests feel less like spectators and more like actual players in the experience.
We apply these principles every day at The Grounds – and take it to a whole new level with our themed special events, such as the recent “Secret Garden” Valentine’s Day themed dinner. Participants were wined and dined (with showstopping dishes) as they sat within a specially created garden, with live entertainment, beautifully crafted photo stations and many more surprises on the night. A magical experience that they were definitely a part of.
“The goal is to have your guests feel less like spectators and more like actual players in the experience.”
9. Always be in BETA mode
Striving for perfection means never being truly finished. The products and services you’re offering should always be “a work in progress”. They should be under constant evaluation — by the consumer, not by you.
10. Last impressions count
In a world where “first impressions count”, I’d have to say that last impressions are just as important. You need to be constantly asking what you want your customers to have topmost in their minds when they leave the experience. How would they describe the experience? How did it make them feel?
11. Customers help you predict the future
When you pay attention to what your customers’ fears, frustrations or favourite things are, it allows you to improve what you do for future customers. Because there’s nothing better than being at the front of a trend, and the excitement and word of mouth when customers discover what you do. Paying attention means both taking a step back to look at the broad picture and overseas trends, as well as focussing on the small details and local issues of your particular field.
12. Aesthetics are everything
This one applies more to a cafe or restaurant but is also important in pure retail stores too. What would make your guests want to come in, sit down, and just hang out? What can you do to make the environment more inviting and comfortable? You want to create an atmosphere in which your guests feel free “to be”. I think of it like a herd of grazing zebras on a savannah – where all it takes is the smallest of movements to make them all run. So be aware of subtle things to make your customers feel like staying and “grazing”.
13. Rethink the customer experience
Steve Jobs once said, “[Design is] not just what it looks like and feels like, Design is how it works.” So don’t be afraid to shine a light on every single aspect of the customer experience. Disneyland removed a major sore point in its theme park and hotels by not fixing the processes surrounding long wait times – instead redesigning the customer experience by introducing a smart band which linked to every part of their stay.
Sometimes true reinvention means focussing on customer needs rather than simply improving a process. Get that fresh thinking in and assume nothing is set in stone. All bets are off when you bring true innovation to the table.
14. The customer is always right… in front of you
The founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad famously used to work the cash registers in his stores – in an effort to better understand, one by one, what his customers’ problems were. In fact, it’s a common lament from those working on the “coal face” – that those making the decisions are too far removed from the daily “pinch points” in the business. This can happen with 1000 staff or just 10. So don’t be afraid to interact and get to know your most valuable resource – your customer.
The founder of Walmart, Sam Walton, was also a fan of walking about his stores chatting with customers. He once said: “There’s only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”