5 Steps to Creating Great Customer Experiences

Emily Wolf, web designer, shares how to elevate customer experiences with five little things and one, big question, “Are you in business for something other than your business?”

How often do you encounter an unexpected, small gesture that makes you say, “Why can’t more experiences be like this?” The answer: probably not as often as you’d like. The crazy thing? It doesn’t take that much effort to design customer experiences (both digital and physical) to happen this way.

Back in my college days, I worked at the fine establishment of P.F.Chang’s (I still love their food). One of my greatest takeaways from that job was a simple directive: regardless of your role, your first responsibility is to anticipate the needs of the customer. If they have to ask for something (other than the food they choose to order), you missed an opportunity to serve them well.

We experience things every day, some ordinary and routine, some unusual and exciting. If your mindset is to put people first (step one of all good design), then elevating the experiences you create to stir up joy and loyalty, can cost just about nothing.

Here’s a list of five ways to do it.

  1. Personalization: This feels human

    Personalization is more than getting an email that starts with “Hello, Emily!” Although that’s nice to see, personalization should actually go both ways: to the customer and from the provider. Personalization means that the customer is thought of and the provider feels approachable and real.

    To the customer: You walk into your hotel room after a long day of travel and there’s a handwritten notecard welcoming you with your name on it.

    From the provider: The employee who wrote the notecard did so with a blend of their own voice and your brand standards.

    By personalizing a notecard, you instantly draw on the warmth of a thoughtful note and remind your customer that there are humans at the ready to make their experience great. Never underestimate the tone and word choice in which you speak. This can make or break an experience.

    This communicates: We’ve been expecting you. You belong here. You are valued.

  2. Anticipation: Let me get that for you

    Anticipation shows that every step of the experience has already been considered, which also means that you’re prepared for anything. Ask yourself the following questions:

    What are my customers doing before they arrive? Meet them with some element of relief or delight upon arrival. When they walk in your door or arrive on your site, what is the most simple thing they desire?

    How do my customers feel during the experience? Be at the ready for anything that may arise, physically or emotionally, throughout the experience. Think of all the questions your customers have asked and read the looks on their faces to gauge how you can elevate simple moments.

    Where are my customers going when they leave? Send them off with something unforgettable—many people return to a place of business based on what they experience the previous time. The last moments of the experience can be the most powerful.

    This communicates: You are understood. You are worth the effort. You are valued.

  3. Familiarity: Hey, I know you

    Interpersonal familiarity can only happen when customers return several times, and acknowledging their presence starts the beginning of a relationship. Remembering a name, knowing a lunch order, or simply wearing a smile to acknowledge a familiar face are the smallest gestures to create interpersonal familiarity.

    Familiar environments pull on sensory elements that feel good to your customer. Think about what your customers like to experience outside of your store and bring it in: What kind of music do they listen to? What types of smells will invoke relaxation or excitement? Bring the elements of their life into your business.

    This communicates: You are known. We’re glad you’re here. You are valued.

  4. Empathy: I understand how you feel

    Empathy requires you to put the needs and feelings of your customers first, which also means you need to be prepared for anything. It’s inevitable that your customers will encounter your business when they’re not having a good day, so what can you do to be prepared to alleviate their frustrations? Craft your policies and procedures with “bad days” in mind, and think of simple ways you can delight an upset customer (food and beverages do wonders when hanger is involved!).

    This communicates: You are welcome, even when things aren’t going well. We’d like to you stick around. You are valued.

  5. Complimentary goods and services: Free feels better

    Complimentary goods and services can be used to communicate two things:

    We know you’re hesitant to spend your money on something new, so try it for free. Giving away a free sample shows your customers that you’re willing to reach out to them first. Once the free item is received, an experience and a conversation can start that would never have begun without it.

    This scenario is not ideal, but how about this? Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but being willing to give away free bourbon or snacks on a delayed flight goes a long way! Alleviating upset expectations with something free (and highly valued) acknowledges the sour scenario and shows through your actions that you’d like to make it better.

    This communicates: We acknowledge how you’re feeling. We want you to stick around. You are valued.

The little things make the biggest difference

Ultimately, all of these little things, when done genuinely, communicate a very specific thing behind your customer experiences: you are valued.

To do this well, you need to be in business for something other than your business. Maybe you’re in business to make people’s lives better. Maybe you’re in business because of a passion that you believe in. Whatever it is, pause for a moment and ask yourself if you can complete this sentence:

I am in the business of (your why) and it happens to be through (your how and what here).

Here’s ours as an example:

We are in the business of making people’s lives better and it happens to be through creative services partnerships.

Diggin’ these ideas? We also dive into this topic on our podcast episode: The Design of Experience | The Little Things.

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