As digital professionals, we should apply the same rigor to our client’s experience as we do to the experience of end users.
I hate to break it to you, but you are probably a hypocrite. If it makes you feel any better, you are not alone. I know I am definitely one, too.
The reason for this harsh judgement? As web designers, we are always talking about the user’s needs. About how our clients should pay more attention to their customer’s experience. Yet we fail to do that with our own customers. How ironic!
I believe that we are misunderstanding what it is our clients want from us. We are under the impression that they hire us to deliver a website, mobile app, or some other form of digital application.
In reality, the service we provide is just as important as the final deliverable. Great code and an amazing design is not enough by itself. A client will not hire you a second time or recommend you to others if they’ve hated every minute of working with you.
The best way to differentiate, gain repeat business, and get word of mouth recommendation is great service.
But to do that we need to understand what kind of service our clients expect. That means we need to get to know our clients much better.
Map the client experience
Be honest, how well do you know your clients? Not just them as people (although that is important), but their journey. How they came to work with you.
Do you know how they came to contact you? Do you understand how they assessed the different vendors they approached? Do you know why they chose you over the competition? Do you know what their expectations were of the process? What about the questions they have or the approval process they need to go through?
In most cases, it’s shocking how little we understand our clients experience. It’s time to change that.
It’s not like we don’t know how to do user research. We know how to interview users, so why not clients? Take the time to sit down and talk to some existing clients, and find out more about their experience.
But don’t stop there. Talk to some of the clients you lost too. Or even clients you would like to work with, but have never approached you. Invest some time in unpacking what is going on.
Once you have done the research, you can put together a customer journey map. A customer journey map is a visual representation of the steps a client goes through when engaging you. It identifies their tasks, questions, feelings, and influences. It will help you understand how they experience your process.
If this is something you haven’t done before, no problem. I wrote a guide over at Smashing Magazine that you might want to check out.
A customer journey map is a visual representation of the steps a client goes through when engaging you.
Of all the things you need to identify as you map the customer journey, your client’s pain points are the most important.
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Identify client pain points
We tend to shy away from focusing on where things go wrong. But if you want to create an outstanding customer experience, this is important.
Holding a post-mortem at the end of a project is a great way of doing this. Sit down and discuss the project once you have finished. Where did it go well, where were their problems, and where did it differ from the clients expectations?
Once you understand the pain points, discuss how you could address them. Some of the issues will be project-specific. But there are often more universal lessons that you can draw from them. Lessons around communication, deadlines, and deliverables.
Communication is often particularly important, but it is not enough to establish that you should have communicated better. Discuss how you could have done that. Did you need to manage expectations, communicate more often, or include the client more in the project?
A post-mortem sounds easy, but it can be more difficult than you think. It can often be hard to identify the little details that undermined the experience. Clients can also be reluctant to sound too picky.
To stimulate the conversation, work through the touch points in the project from beginning to end. Those moments where you interact with the client. You will find this process can flush things out.
You might also like: 9 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Post-Mortem Meetings.
Focus on the touch points
It will surprise you just how many touch points you have with clients. From the initial contact, through the sales process, and then on into the project itself. But if you are doing your job right, it doesn’t end there. You should also be keeping in contact through ongoing marketing efforts.There are many touchpoints with your clients throughout their journey.
Understanding these touch points is important. How does the client feel at each stage? What questions do they have or tasks do they have to complete? But most of all, what weaknesses are there in your service? How could you make it better?
Little things make all the difference
Little things make a huge difference. Unless you have serious problems, you will not find a big gaping hole. Instead you might identify little improvements that you could make. But we are not just talking about improvements to your website or keynote presentations. We are talking about improvements to your service.
For example, there can be long periods in projects where nothing much is happening. You might be working on other jobs so you won’t have much to report to your client. But you might discover clients feel in the dark during those times. A simple email saying that you have nothing to report, but the project is on track, could make all the difference.
Then there are the little delighters that make clients feel appreciated. It might be a thank you card for recommending you to another company. It could be hand delivering proposals in beautifully bound form, rather than sending an email.
Discuss each touchpoint within your company and with clients. You will soon find small improvements that you could make. And while they might not seem that way, small gestures can go a long way.
You might also like: 4 Quick Ways to Build Trust With a New Client
I know that nothing in this post comes as a surprise — yet we don’t do them. I know I don’t, and I wrote the article! When things are going okay as a business, there isn’t a pressing need to improve anything. But is that what you want? To provide an ‘okay’ service?
No doubt, you want to produce the best design possible and output the highest quality code. But, what about your service? I bet you could do better. I know I could.
Look, I am not an expert at this stuff. Rather I am encouraging us all to improve our service. I am sure a lot of you are already doing great things. If you are, share them in the comments. If we pool our ideas together, I am sure we can up the quality of the service we all provide, and improve how clients perceive us as an industry.