There’s little doubt that we’re in the “customer experience” era. In their recent Daily Fix posts, for instance, Paul Barsch and Linda Ireland offered insights on how leaders are transforming their businesses with bold strategies aimed at the all-important customer or client experience.
If you’re in any of the services business—marketing, PR, consulting, web design, copywriting, and so on—you know that the quality of your client’s experience rests with you and your team. After all, you’re the ones who work directly with clients during sale and in the delivery of your service. When clients evaluate their experiences with your company, they are really thinking about the people they worked with.
Of course, delivering your project on time, within budget, and with the expected results only makes up part of the client’s overall experience with you. Most clients consider those achievements as the minimum standard of performance.
Today’s clients want more. They’re also looking for non-project sources of value, such as what they can learn, how they might change as a result of your work, the new capabilities they could develop, and how they will feel about the experience of working with you. Focus on boosting those aspects of the client’s experience, and you will set yourself apart from others.
The best client experiences don’t happen by accident. To begin, you need to understand the possible sources of value for your client, which differ greatly from client to client. You can get a better view of what particular clients value by asking this question: If we had already completed this project and you were looking back on it, how would you describe the project if your experience was an ideal one?
In response, you’ll probably hear a lot about schedules, delivery on your promises, and budget. That’s to be expected. But follow up on the non-tangible sources of value, especially how the clients might have changed and what they gained, personally and professionally.
Once you do that, you’ll get a glimpse of how they want to work with you and a truer picture of what’s most important to them. From that discussion and follow-up questions, you should have a good idea how you can deliver on all the sources of value for them.
In an ideal world, you would have asked such questions during the sales process and offered your take on the client’s experience in your proposal. If you didn’t, make this a priority before you begin the work.
Granted, designing a client experience isn’t going to work for everyone. We’ve all been with clients who just want the job done. In spite of that, it’s undeniable that buyers will continue to gravitate to sellers who offer them the experiences they want.
You can buck that trend, continue to compete just on competence, and you will probably win some of the time. But don’t expect to get paid a premium, and don’t be surprised if your most interesting project opportunities are highly competitive.
If you want to separate your company from others, think about how you can add the client’s experience to your marketing, sales, and service delivery efforts.