"People don’t buy features, they buy benefits." It has been the basic sales mantra for years. Today I remind clients, despite the truth in the previous statement, "people buy experiences." So how can one be certain they’re providing an experience that will attract customers? Excel at these five "E-Points" and you’ll have no worries.

Expectations

People come to our businesses and organizations with expectations and a positive experience will meet or exceed them.  Many times our marketing has created these and they can surround pricing, products, service, response time, all of these or more.

You can’t meet the expectations if you haven’t determined what they are. Take time to get into the minds of your clients and know what they need and expect. Responding to your customer surveys or comments may be easy, but it’s not enough. Instead, you need to reach out prior to service delivery in a proactive way.

We find facilitated focus groups often reveal surprising outcomes for the business or organization. Many times the customer expectations are much simpler and less costly to deliver than the perceived expectations. You simply won’t know unless you ask. "What is it that you expect when……?" "How can your experience improve as you……..?" Customer expectations, for the most part, are not unrealistic, so provide an opportunity for expression. Then, if you want to develop a truly loyal customer don’t just meet those, exceed them.

Ease

Technology has revolutionized our processes and social interactions. Consumers are accustomed to conducting an internet search in nanoseconds or connecting via the internet to a relative 2,500 miles away at a moment’s notice. The impact on customer experience demands is obvious, requiring they be as barrier free as possible for the client.

No matter the form, this ease of conducting business needs to flow from the customer’s very first interaction. They won’t have patience for barriers in long lines, wait times or difficult checkouts. They’re not unrealistic, they simply value their time and multitasking. If paying customers lose their valuable time while you try to figure it out, it’s perceived as inconsiderate. Competition today is fierce and if you don’t have the process they want in place, they’ll easily find a competitor who does. Make it super easy!

Environment

Too often, environmental incongruence with service delivery is overlooked. Dying landscaping, outdated flyers posted, random trash in the parking area, lights out or jarring color schemes speak volumes about the business. Your customers will project those shortcomings to your service, even if subconsciously. In fact, you may not even get a shot if the first impression is substandard. 

Engage a fresh set of eyes to periodically take a look at your place of business. They’ll tell you what your customers see when they step out of their car or connect online. Is your platform or parking lot clean and fresh, or stale and worn. Is there a logical wayfinding system or obvious entrance with a welcoming face and decor? Is your homepage cluttered? Details do matter and an objective party can spot the problem areas.

Empathy

The single most impactful trait you can exhibit during customer interaction and experience is empathy. Empathy is not about treating customers like you’d like to be treated (though important.) Empathy is about putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and anticipating responses, creating the best possible experience from their perspective.

The person being put on hold needs to be asked, given a choice of you returning their call. Put them in the driver’s seat rather than you telling them how it’s going to be. Show you care, be genuine and welcome them to your “family.” Know who your customers are, know what they like and then deliver your service as if you were in their shoes.

Emotions

Emotions drive a customer’s perceived experience and determine their future responses, so monitor the pulse of your experience. Analyze how you trigger positive emotions and experiences for each and every customer. It may be as simple as offering a cup of coffee. A personal escort to the department.  Recalling their children’s names. A personal phone call in advance or in follow-up of an appointment. Each can trigger positive emotions if it is genuine, personal and consistent.

Different personality styles will be wowed by individualized actions so knowing your customers is important. Ultimately, emotions will be the deciding factor in determining a customer’s experience and be the trigger that colors their satisfaction, so cultivate the positives, mitigate the negatives and get it right.  Even when wrong remember, “It’s not the mistake, it’s how it’s handled that matters.”

Yes, "people buy experiences" and great experiences don’t just happen. If you are paying attention to the 5 "E Points" listed above, you’ll be proactively addressing the issues at the heart of them. Doing so will greatly enhance your chances of developing long term relationships with loyal customers.

David J. Fry is the President of Effective Advancement Strategies in Indiana.

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