Making the Customer Experience a Vacation Experience
When we go on vacation, we try to go with family and friends that we know we’ll enjoy. Of course, there are exceptions. We may not like certain family members or the friend of friends that happen to come, too. But by and large we’re planning an experience so we know we can enjoy it. We’re inviting the people close to us with whom we have bonds, share fun, derive meaningful conversation, have pleasant past experiences. Each one is an individual with his/her own unique talents, quirks, strengths, weaknesses, interests, style, etc. We recognize each one’s individuality and relate to him/her as a unique person. Our relationship with that person is one of a kind. Our conversations with one person are not the same as a conversation with another. Each person elicits from us a different kind of empathy.
Research done by Gallop polls shows that clients don’t remain loyal to your business because you provide them with a reasonable or even great transactional customer service. That’s just the minimum. Customers keep coming back and become your raving fans because you have personal relationships that show each person that s/he is unique, and deserving of a unique relationship, conversation, and empathy connection. Together you’re creating a shared experience that you can bond over, just like a journey together or a dance (just had to get that in) or a pleasant vacation. You find commonalities (pets, families, music, hobbies, likes and dislikes) that help that customer remember how unique you are as well, not just another talking-business-head at the other end of the phone, but a real person with families, pets, cares, likes and dislikes of your own. A lot of that is communicated by the warm tone of your voice, the eye contact (if you’re face-to-face), the way you ask questions and expect an answer, your ability to laugh and be playful, how you show you care.
If you want your client to feel s/he is on vacation with you, view him/her as a person that could potentially go on vacation with you. (If that’s too difficult, view the person as someone who goes on vacation with his/her own family.)
Did you notice in the story I told at the top of this page what I described first was about the beach and the sun (feeling and smelling), ice cream and ‘bars’ (taste), music (hearing), (seeing) the dancers, the sun, the musicians. The way our brains have evolved, when we experience something through our senses and it’s associated with positive emotions, we remember it a long time because we remember the emotions a long time. We may not remember the actual details of the transaction, but we do remember our sensory experience and how the person made us feel that was associated with the sensory memory.
How can we put sensory experiences into the customer’s buying experience? Most retail stores know this. They play music in the background. Bookstores offer snacks and comforting drinks. Visually stores are set up to show colorful, well designed displays that catch your eye, and they create soothing lighting. In longer term client relationships, people touch, hug, kiss on the cheek(s)(familiarity varies with cultures before each of these becomes acceptable) There are food tastings, wine tastings. Companies offer free lunches and company picnics to help bond their employees to the company. In your situation how can you involve a sensory component that helps to enhance the client relationship? No matter how detached and professional you think you need to be, remember we’re all human and respond to our senses unconsciously.
Every time we’ve gone on this vacation to this shore location, we reinforce our experience of enjoying it together. It becomes something we share over and over and reinforces the bonds we have with each other. Going to the ice cream parlor, for instance, generates conversations of ‘remember when we were here last year and the year before that’. Who sang, what song, who in our party had to sing along, what got spilled, how hard we laughed, who was with us, what’s changed. So we now have this year’s memory that’s layered on last year’s memory and all the layers of years before that. The bonds grow stronger with every layer.
How can we incorporate repeatable and layered positive emotional traditions in our clients’ experiences? If we’re relating to each one as a unique individual, we can bring up memories of things we talk about each time we come in contact. Nordstroms was always well known for salespeople remembering their clients and their unique needs and personal situations. Companies that have CRM (customer relationship management) software can record notes about conversations, birthdays, etc. That helps when there are lots of customers we want to remember. Remembering that Pat likes to talk about her cat and bringing it up the next time you get her on the phone reinforces the pleasurable first conversation. Taking a client to a sports event, an art opening, a nonprofit fundraiser creates these shared experiences. When repeated, they become a tradition with multi-layered bonding.
The Contagion Factor
When new ‘friends’ come along on our family’s vacations, they get swept up in the shared camaraderie. We talk about memories and wind up explaining what originally happened. This generates various versions of the same story, a lot of discussion and a retelling of the traditions which increase the bonds. The new person feels caught up in the group fun and the bonds form a network that includes the new person. Imagine a spider web of filaments going from each person to each person with the new friend caught up in the web of belonging. The new person contributes to the present experience which will become a new component in the evolving tradition. This is part of the experience of the vacation, the group coalescing and magnifying the experience of those who are present even if they don’t yet share all the traditions.
How can we include this in our clients’ experiences? Can we introduce new clients/prospects to existing clients? Certainly if we’re targeting an industry and then become a sponsor of an industry event, the invitees are most likely existing clients and some prospects. If the existing clients are sharing stories of the traditions they’ve shared with you and your company, the prospects can get caught up in the spider web of stories. They’ll catch the contagion and it will enhance their experience at the event and possibly get them started positively as they develop their own repeatable traditions with your firm. In the coaching groups that I’ve facilitated there are traditions in shared vocabulary, goal achieving methodologies, target market/product matrixes and more that each person has had experience with. When they come together in a group, each person reinforces each other’s experiences and there’s an infectious learning that takes place and strengthens the bonds among group members and with their coach (me).
So think about how you can make your clients’ experience more like a vacation with your family so they want to come back again and again. 1) Look at each person as a unique individual worthy of your trust, respect, and a unique relationship, 2) Incorporate sensory experiences that make their emotional experience with you memorable in their core brain functions, 3) Create repeatable traditions of layered experiences, and finally, 4) Use the contagion factor to include new prospects in your existing client’s spider web of bonds and traditions to maximize the quality of relationships and the quantity of raving fans.
I’m always interested in your feedback. Email me ideas that can enhance the value of this conversation. Want to come with me on my vacation?