We talk – a lot– at Absolute Engagement about what it means to deliver an extraordinary client experience.
But then it hit me. ‘Extraordinary’ means very different things to different people. So if your goal is to go from ‘good to extraordinary’ you need to decide what that actually means before you begin to take action.
To support you in that process, I’d like to suggest two exercises. The first is focused on what is most important to you, as the leader of an organization. The second recognizes that getting the input of your team may be one of the most important things you can do.
The Personal Brainstorm
The first step is about looking inward.
Before you begin to consider what extraordinary looks like for everyone else, it's helpful to get a clear picture of what it means to you.
You may have a general sense of your vision, but this first exercise is about digging a little deeper to uncover what makes a client experience stand out. By thinking about it for yourself, you'll connect more deeply to the process when you start to speak to the team and to your clients.
What might your personal brainstorm look like?
The key to making it meaningful is to think about client experience outside the four walls of this industry. When we think about an extraordinary client experience, we often, and naturally, think about our own business or those of our colleagues. We look to benchmarking reports, read about best practices, and think about advisors we've heard at conferences sharing information on their businesses.
And, while all of those things are no doubt helpful, the biggest innovations in client experience are taking place outside of this industry, and we need to take note. Because, that is where your clients live and work every day. And, it's where they're being taught what a client experience can really look like.
The question for you to consider is this.
What is the single greatest client experience you've ever had?
Or, worded slightly differently it might sound like this.
What one client experience has had the greatest positive impact on you?
So what comes to mind? You may think of some of the brands we often associate with great client experience like Apple, Disney, or Ritz-Carlton. Or you might think about something closer to home, like your local mechanic, or dog walker.
What the experience is doesn't matter at all. Why you thought of it is what matters.
From there, and with that one experience firmly in your mind, unpack it. Peel back the onion to understand what made it so extraordinary. Think about some of the questions you see here.
- How would you describe the experience?
- What made you think of that experience in particular?
- How did it make you feel?
- What happened before, during, and after the delivery of that service?
- What words might you use to describe that firm or brand?
The deeper you go the better you'll understand why the experience was extraordinary, and the more you can understand how it made you feel, the closer you'll be to understanding why this experience had such an impact.
It's not just that an airline went the extra mile and put you in business class after a terrible travel day. It's that they understood what you were feeling, and that's what we want to achieve.
Now, Get Your Team Involved
Now it's time to start co-creating the experience, but start with your own team before involving clients.
Understanding what extraordinary looks like to your team, as a whole, is almost as important as understanding what it looks like to your clients, because that definition will reflect the business that you want to create. If you don't have a team, you could consider doing this exercise with a study group or several colleagues who are interested in enhancing their client experience.
In the case of team involvement, it's less about creating a shared vision and more about expanding your vision of what an extraordinary client experience can really look like.
While the owner or lead advisor may have responsibility for setting the overall vision for the firm, getting the team involved in defining the client experience is critical. By actively involving the team you'll tap into their thinking to ensure that you're creating a shared vision and to ensure that you have buy-in to that vision.
The reality is that everyone will need to be on board and everyone has something to contribute to the overall thinking. So you'll want to know if you're on the right track.
At this point, invite your team into the same process you just went through with your personal brainstorm. In the same way, encourage the team to think outside of this industry. Have each of them consider their greatest client experience and deconstruct that experience in exactly the same way to fully understand why it had such an impact.
The process for your team meeting might look like this:
- Meet with the team to introduce and reinforce the idea of having a shared vision for an extraordinary client experience.
The goal is to help them understand that they play a role in defining great, and to get them excited about expanding your vision by looking outside the industry. This is particularly helpful for team members who are newer to the industry, and may not feel that they have the experience to share industry specific examples.
- Next, ask each team member to complete the client experience worksheet in advance of meeting as a group. You can download a template here for just that purpose.
Start by asking them to share the experience and to highlight the one thing that really stood out. Don't be afraid to probe in order to get to the core of why that experience was so powerful.
Sometimes we describe client experience at a very high level and only when questioned can we get to the core of why it made such an impact. Simple questions such as 'how did that make you feel' can go a long way. And finally, draw on your own experience and those of your team members to identify what was common and what you want to replicate across all of the examples.
By going through these exercises you’ll get a clear sense of what it means to deliver something extraordinary. To get there you’ll need to dig into why each of the experiences had such an impact and then look at how you can bring those same lessons into your business.