I don’t like to fly.
It unequivocally scares the bejesus outta me.
Fast forward to my first flight on Virgin airlines. Have you had the pleasure? It’s clean. Well lit. Hip music. I need to add clean again because it was a revelation—no vomit residue ANYWHERE! Seats comfy like a chair should feel. Freedom is actually the word that comes to mind.
I turned and looked at the guy sitting next to me…childlike wonder in my eyes and the most moody Sigur Ros song playing in my headphones and said…."Is this nice or what?" He laughed at me and went back to his laptop. At least some things don’t change.
My amazing experience continued through watching movies and ordering food. I have to admit I didn’t think about hurtling back to earth in a ball of flames once since I was standing on the jetway.
Now…has Virgin done something to make air travel safer? No. Has Virgin effectively made me feel cool and rich and like one of the chosen ones and maybe most importantly, like I'm not picking up every disease known to man simply by breathing the air in the cabin? Yes. And they have done more… they have created peace of mind. Dare I say, they have found the Zen of air flight.
Who is the grandaddy of customer experience? Of course, Apple is.
Do you know how much I drop on that company a year? I'm totally “green” everywhere outside of the white apple bubble…but that freaking packaging gets me every time.
I was actually asked to write this article by Matt Lawrence. He was contacted by Buddha or something while he was in my amazing infrared sauna (yes, it is amazing). He came out all sweaty and clear and he said "Elisha…you need to write an article about customer experiences…because you have it nailed."
I do know a thing or two about the feng shui of making your customers have the best possible experience they can have. It's like a sixth sense for me, call it the overbearing Jewish upbringing….but here is what I know.
These two things will rock your customers sock’s off…if they are wearing any.
Whatever you are selling….think of the best possible experience someone could have in your space. If you do math-y things, you can still think about this. I would love, for instance, to be offered a cup of tea with actual choices of tea when I go to my accountants…just sayin. Who, for instance, accountants, are your clients? People who can’t do numbers well. What magazine might they like to read while they are waiting for you? It’s easy. Anticipate.
My goal for my customers, even more than the complaints they come in with, is for them to have an hour to fully relax. And I take this very seriously.
I am an acupuncturist. When you walk down the steps to my practice the first things you see are two giant vinyl banners. One has a beautiful bamboo garden printed on it. The other, a sacred tree with Buddha carved in its trunk. Your senses are already shifting before you hit my front door.
When you walk in, it's warm. You sit in arguably the most comfortable chair ever made and within your reach are Zing bars (yum) and water glasses near a large sexy container of water. You can hear the sweet music just ever so slightly, but mostly you are just beginning to unwind.
When I come get you we walk back into the treatment space. The first thing you see are floor to ceiling linen curtains that are draped romantically and big healthy plants. You pick up the beautiful aroma from the essential oils and beeswax candles. The lighting is just enough for you to see everything, but not to be fully aware, again allowing you let go of the tight reign on your mind.
You see, this is the experience. Can I transport you for one hour away from everything you know, into my beautiful private garden? And from there, can you fully let go and relax?
When we sit on the comfy sofa and start talking you are listened to. The music floats in the room and you tell me what you need me to hear. I listen, follow up with questions or offer suggestions before we even start. I tell you what I'm hearing and how I plan to help. I ask if you if you need the restroom before we begin. (That is also part of anticipating their needs.) Your clients should have to ask for nothing.
When you first get on the table you gasp, because it is the most comfortable treatment table you have ever been on. You say something like "this feels like a cloud." I smile, because I know. I immediately cover you with warm towels. You are touched with the care that you deserve and the presence that I can offer. Your needs are always on my mind.
Through the treatment you are relaxed with the smells of oils, with soft eye pillows. It continues. I anticipate.
How can I know this? I have spent hundreds of hours receiving treatments. I know what I like. I know what was surprising to me and most importantly I know what I didn't like. How I didn't like to be touched. How I didn't like things to feel. What smells upset me. What sounds distracted me. I know what my competitors are doing, and how I can do it better.
I then spent just as many hours creating the exact perfect experience and then asking my customers if there was any way they could be more comfortable. And then, trying that out and asking others if they liked it or not.
I know you might be thinking “but they would just get used to it”. And the truth is, they don't. And you know why? Because everywhere else they go is the same vanilla un-thoughtful space. Every time my space feels to them like a welcome oasis. I know this, because they tell me over and over again.
Second: Figure out EXACTLY what your customers want. I suppose this should be first…but the other one was more fun to write.
Virgin knows that people want to be inconvenienced as little as possible during their flights, so they give them more control. I know my clients first need to relax and not worry about their world for an hour, so I take care of it all for them. Apple knows we like pretty shiny things and they provide exactly that.
What do your clients REALLY want? And how can you be damn sure you have really figured it out?
Everyone can make a survey and mail it out…but my good friend and amazing healer Beth Schermer just recently reached out to 20 clients and called them personally on the phone to ask them about how her work is, how her treatments are, how it feels to be in her world, all the specifics. She asked them to say it in their own words. She spent a half hour with each person and learned an invaluable amount of information as she was crafting a new model for her business.
My old dentist used to have headsets for my ears so I didn't have to hear any of the dentist sounds coming from his tools. He also gave me sunglasses so I didn't have to look into the light. I can't say I liked going to the dentist any more, but he also offered me lip balm before my mouth was going to be open for a while. That was awesome forward thinking.
And of course, who doesn't want their gynecologist to warm up the stirrups and speculum….that's not just common decency, that's also part of the customer experience! Am I right ladies?
If you don't feel like you have the skill to pull something like this off….hire someone. I promise it will pay off! In the eight years I’ve been fine tuning my customer experience, I have really changed very little. Improvements have been organic and mostly suggested by my clients. I have made some of the worst possible business decisions. I have moved my practice 5 times in 8 years. But I still have folks drive 45 minutes for appointments with me because they can’t find what I do anywhere else. When they stray and come back they say to me, “I feel like I cheated on you.” Ridiculous, but adorable. It’s because I make it my job to know their needs and anticipate.
If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. And if you aren’t doing it right, there’s someone who is. That’s a good thing to remember.
Of course, as a shameless plug, if you want help getting this all straight, feel free to hire me… it seems from Matt's sweaty proclamation that I’ve got it all figured out.