Today’s clients are skeptical and knowledgeable buyers. They have higher expectations of us and our services than ever before, so it is no longer enough to convince them about the quality of our products or services. Instead of reassuring, we need to be able to provide our clients with an excellent experience and get them to share this experience with others.
In theory, there is nothing new in this – we have long strived to provide good customer service and, for example, clear purchasing paths along which we strive to guide our clients. But how exactly is an excellent client experience created? We know that the experience is influenced, for instance, by how our online store is built or how seamlessly we manage to guide the client forward within the organization.
However, we easily make the mistake of thinking that our responsibility for the client experience ends when the client receives the product they ordered from the online store or when the project ends. The fact that the products or services we sell are of high quality helps, but does not yet guarantee the success of our client. The client experience ultimately depends on how well the client succeeds with our product or service.
Can we think we have succeeded when we wrap up a project and send an invoice to the client, or only then when the completed project starts to generate value for the client, for example in terms of sales growth?
Those clients for whom we can give a feeling of success through our products and services will most likely become loyal clients who will buy more from us and – more importantly – will continue to act as our advocates.
Who is responsible for the client experience?
The answer is simple: everyone’s. Every person in the organization has a role in making a successful client experience. Some roles are clearer than others, but the better we know our client’s life cycle, the easier it is for us to see where each can make the most impact.
Even within the same organization, a client’s life cycle may look very different for different client groups, as there is no universally valid client path or life cycle. To determine the client path, various tools allow us to identify what our client’s journey looks like and how we might affect it.
In the future, I wish organizations would invest their marketing budget in those parts of the client path that have the greatest impact on the client experience and that are most likely to enable clients’ success. These successful clients help us succeed by acting as our promoters and gaining more sales for us.
This cycle creates higher quality and more sustainable client relationships that lead to growth.
Why the traditional funnel no longer works?
The idea of a client path as a funnel-like cone illustrates well how consumers once behaved: seeing an advertisement for a trip to Lanzarote in a magazine, flipping through a catalog with their family, wondering if they’re able to leave, and eventually making a purchase decision and packing their bags.
But we no longer make purchasing decisions like this. The process is rarely so linear, and consideration is often made on several different points and from several different angles. The fact that we consume tons of commercial content every day has made us very critical consumers. Instead of believing in marketing, we believe in people. We listen to our friends and the influencers we follow, as well as read product reviews. The experiences of others have a huge impact on our buying behavior. The traditional funnel ignores the power these existing satisfied customers have.
By investing in acquiring new clients instead of paid advertising, we will certainly get people poured in from the top end of the funnel and also be able to pop a few of them out at the end of it as clients. But if we don’t invest in the client experience and succeed in creating advocates for ourselves, we will have to make the same investment over and over again.
Even marketing technology giant Hubspot, which originally built its entire business around the funnel, has made a turnabout and is now talking about the Flywheel model, where the client’s journey is seen as a wheel or a cycle instead of a linear funnel. By adding speed to the flywheel, the service provider can gain momentum from satisfied clients.
The cycle of client experience
So instead of a funnel, we shall think of the client’s buying path and experience as a cycle that (hopefully) never stops spinning. To keep the cycle up and running, we need to add force to those parts of the cycle that have the most impact on the client experience and ensure that nothing we do slows down or prevents the cycle from spinning.
Examples of things that can speed things up include freemium models, investing in customer service, advertising targeted at a specific audience, inbound marketing, educational content, and customer referral models. Slowing things can be, for example, poor internal processes, poor or slow customer service, or a poorly functioning cash register.
The faster we get the cycle running and the less friction there is in the cycle, the more and faster we will create new advocates for our company. All of these new advocates, in turn, are further accelerating the cycle.
How can we affect the different phases of the cycle?
Hubspot divides its Flywheel model into three parts: client attraction, engagement, and delight. We can influence each of the three stages through marketing, among other things.
We encourage visitors to explore our products and services with useful content and try to remove potential barriers to learning. The key is to earn attention instead of forcing it. One can gain attention with content marketing, search engine optimization, social media marketing, social selling, well-targeted paid advertising, and conversion optimization.
In the engagement phase, we aim to make shopping as easy as possible by allowing buyers to interact with us there and when it suits them best. Also, we focus on building lasting relationships rather than just closing as many deals as possible. Examples of this can be personalization, marketing automation, nurturing leads with useful content, multi-channel communication (chat, phone, messages, email), sales automation, and lead scoring.
When we delight the client, we help them succeed. Remember, client success is also our success. Means may include, for example, customer service, multi-channel accessibility (chat, messages, telephone, email), ticketing systems, automated onboarding, feedback surveys, and loyalty programs.
The traditional laws still do apply
In the end, developing and guiding the client experience is mostly about how well we know our client, their journey, and how well we as a company take responsibility for client relationships. The other side of the coin is how we leverage our satisfied clients and help our advocates make their voices heard.
Want to learn more about guiding and improving your client experience? In our blog, you will find tips and food for thought we have gathered over the years.