Selling your clients on the perfect project takes more than just checking items off even the most efficient to-do list. A great design, a beautiful presentation, even the perfect opening on your calendar — you might have all of the big pieces in place.
But sales is both an art and a science — and for designers who want to boost their sales, figuring out the right strategy to also appeal to prospects, keep clients happy, boost word-of-mouth referrals, and reduce costs can sometimes seem like a very time-consuming task.
One important piece of the puzzle: creating a better customer experience.
Is it Worth It?
Just how important the customer experience is can sometimes be hard to measure. Is it really worth your time to analyze how to improve your customer experience?
Researchers looking at how to quantify the value of improving the customer experience have found that “the effects are huge”
It’s not just that “unhappy customers are expensive,” since they’re “more likely to return products or more likely to require support.”
Why it really matters: “customers who had the best past experiences spend 140% more compared to those who had the poorest past experience.”
And it’s not just about a customer’s future spending — it’s also about improving word of mouth and reducing costs: “Customers who have a better experience are often less expensive to serve.”
Notably, analysts also identified the reason why there haven't been very many published studies on the quantified value of improving the customer experience: many businesses keep the research they’ve done a secret.
In fact, companies “see it as a strategic advantage, and something they don’t want to tell their competition.”
So gain your own strategic advantage and try these three ways to create an even better experience for your customers:
1. Figure out what your "customer journey” really is.
Creating a “distinctive” customer experience can have a measurably significant impact: “improving a customer experience from merely average to something that wows the consumer can lead to a 30 to 50 percent increase in measures such as likelihood to renew or to buy another product.”
But for many companies, “the danger is that an incumbent may work hard but end up with a ‘me too’ customer experience that does not set it apart.”
In order to create a truly distinctive experience, take a step back and look at how your client experiences each step of that “journey.”
One method: Disney’s Compass Model:
Needs: what problems does your customer need you to solve? For Disney, this includes details like the strategic placement of restrooms where visitors are most likely to need them. For a homeowner who wants a new pool, it might mean figuring out how to make the most of challenging terrain so that the outdoor space will accommodate both the pool and the outdoor kitchen.
Wants: Your client's “wants” are actually “an opportunity to exceed expectations.” For Disney that means “A Guest may need water; they may want a bottle of water.” For a homeowner who wants a pool in their cramped yard, that might mean that they don't just want the pool and outdoor kitchen to fit their challenging terrain — they also want plenty of space for their kids to play, room for their own garden to grow, and an easy route to reach the shower from the pool.
Stereotypes: This is when you "break down misconceptions.” Your client might already have quite a few preconceptions about what it’s like to undertake a big construction project. They might have heard horror stories or they might have hired an under-qualified person, whose work you now have to fix.
Emotions: How your client feels throughout the build can seem too intangible to really measure. While Disney focuses on "the emotional state of the Guest throughout the entire service experience,” for many businesses focusing on a client’s emotions means figuring out what parts of the design-build process might cause a client stress or uncertainty. For a client unfamiliar with the process, even minor changes to the schedule or small delays can seem potentially disastrous; good communication can be very reassuring — and very valuable to a client.
2. Get Personal.
Homeowners don’t want pools, gardens, or outdoor kitchens for dryly practical, strictly rational reasons.
Successful designers instead appeal to their customers’ emotions and create a story about the outdoor living space that they’re going to create.
They focus on what matters to their clients: a great place for the kids to play with friends, an outdoor kitchen perfect for summer dinner parties, a relaxing personal retreat.
What those stories share in common is an understanding of exactly what individual clients actually want.
For many clients who want luxury pools and outdoor living spaces, getting the personalized details exactly right is at the top of their list.
Research into creating customized experiences is clear: the details matter.
Just offering your client a standard outdoor kitchen isn’t enough, no matter how luxurious that kitchen might seem to be: “trying to provide luxury service by implementing standardized processes that will ensure compliance, with checklists designed by third parties that do not know your business as you do, will inevitably fail to address individual customer needs.”
In fact, researchers have identified “catering to the individual” as “the critical competitive differentiator" for luxury clients.
So get to know your clients, listen to what is important to them, and craft the experience you create for them around what they actually want.
3. Be a Great Listener.Giving your client those personal details that they really want doesn’t just happen by chance. As the HBR study pointed out — it’s the truly personalized customization, not just the default luxury items, that clients notice.
- “the average listener will remember only about 25% of what was said."
- “after we have barely learned something, we tend to forget from one-half to one-third of it within eight hours."
- “we forget more in this first short interval than we do in the next six months."
One important tip holds true today: “When people talk, they want listeners to understand their ideas.”
As the researchers point out: while “the facts are useful chiefly for constructing the ideas,” “many people take great pride in being able to say that above all they try to 'get the facts' when they listen."
Instead of listening for “the facts” to create a checklist of things your clients say they want, listen to your clients so that you understand who they are and what’s important to them.
Don’t Sabotage Yourself
We’ve put together some easy-reference guides to help you out as you create those awesome customer experiences and improve your close rate:
- 4 Ways to be Ultra Productive
- 18 Free Landscape Templates
- 10 Steps to a Smarter, More Efficient Landscape Design
- Success Stories (with the exact strategies designers have used to get real results)
Stay tuned and hit subscribe for the next in our series on creating great customer experiences. We’ll share research on how to figure out just how prospects and clients perceive each step of that “customer journey” — and how to avoid the mistakes that can undercut your otherwise fantastic work.