By Sophy Edmonds (4 minute read). ShutterStock photo ID: 722049553.

Customer experience: A positive first impression is really vital to build a successful relationship with customers.
I recently had an appointment with a specialist at my local hospital. After trailing around a maze of corridors, I finally found the clinic and upon entering was faced with two reception areas. There was no clear signage. After a moment’s hesitation, a very gruff voice alerted me to “Come over here”. Shortly thereafter a pile of forms was pushed across the desk at me. Why would this be so? It doesn’t take much to reason that patients visiting a doctor may be worried about their impending appointment and that I, the patient but also a customer, who is considering parting with thousands of dollars in exchange for treatment, should be treated with respect and at least some initial warmth by the reception staff.

According to Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

Key performance indicators for marketing campaigns are often focused around driving new enquiries and maintaining loyalty. But what if the customers who are coming to the door are treated with the gruff welcome I received when I visited my specialist?

In this day and age, every customer touchpoint from the initial enquiry through to sale should be seen as an opportunity to strengthen brand reputation and build a positive customer experience. You can have the best promotional activities but if your organisation and, importantly, its employees, can’t deliver on the promise when it comes to customer interaction, then you’ve missed the point.

I agree with Seth Godin when he says “Every interaction, in any form, is branding”.

Organisations need to consider how to develop a consistent process to engage and delight their customers. In a larger organisation, this should be clearly mapped out to ensure a coordinated approach so that customers are harnessed and engaged from the get go and then on an ongoing basis. A happy customer is the best form of marketing.

It’s important to make the customer experience personal by understanding what matters to them most. You may be surprised. It’s often the small things that matter the most and, in an increasingly digital world, it’s important to get the human interactions right. I believe it’s the service aspects of an organisation’s people that are really key. In preparing to map out the process, seek to put your feet in the shoes of your customer and understand what their drivers and how can you best respond to them. How can you pre-empt and alleviate concerns they may have and seek to delight them in unexpected ways?

As a Brisbane strategic marketing consultancy, we understand that knowing your customers back to front is at the core of any good marketing strategy. Rigorous, objective customer research informs marketing direction. That’s why we often get involved in undertaking a range of exercises from mystery shops to focus groups to surveys to interviews.

How different I would have felt during my visit to the specialist if there had been a designated parking spot for me, or if I’d been greeted with a warm hello and the offer of a coffee on arrival at the clinic. My first impression was not a good one and it overshadowed what has otherwise been a generally good service.

In an increasingly competitive world, it is more and more important to put in place processes to build brand experience though touchpoints with customers – from initial enquiries through to purchase and then through ongoing initiatives to optimise customer retention. Once these processes are mapped out, there is usually a need to provide training and support to embed this as business as usual.

Each customer interaction should be treated with the same due process, reflecting the brand identity. In this way, organisations can communicate via simple, memorable and meaningful messages about how they deliver quality and put customers first.

 Sophy Edmonds is Principal Consultant at Edmonds Marketing, a Brisbane-based strategic marketing consultancy where the focus is on helping clients to define and differentiate their offering by using quality insights to inform strong communications campaigns