Every business has a client experience, whether it’s intentionally designed or not. The big difference between premium services and brands compared to mainstream and commodity brands is this: the premium/luxury brands have intentionally designed their client experience, and they rarely deviate from it.
In my work as a growth consultant to brands that want to become seen as category leaders, I see a lot of confusion around what actually makes a premium client experience. And unfortunately – many design firms fail to deliver the premium experience that clients want.
That is what we call the Signature Client Experience.
- What is a signature client experience?
- Why is it important?
- How do you design one?
- When is the right time to start designing your Signature Client Experience?
- What goes into the experience?
- What happens if things go south?
What is a Client Experience?
A client experience is everything that happens from the first touchpoint to the last, and then some. It starts when a potential client enters your ecosystem, either by responding to one of your ads, maybe visiting your store or showroom, by aimlessly scrolling through social media and seeing your post, or by a recommendation from someone they know.
The client experience starts immediately. It’s the first impression of your brand and frankly, it’s quite difficult to get a second chance. That’s why you must focus on creating the complete experience to be as wonderful as possible.
What do you need to know in advance?
The first step is knowing your buyer persona; their problems, needs, desires, and aspirations are key to creating a splendid experience. Then you need to know how to deliver delight for your clients, and how to package the whole experience into a process that you and your team can easily follow.
Why is it important to design Your Signature Client Experience?
When you create a signature experience, you need to put some intentional effort into designing it to match your client’s expectations of quality and results. But you are also creating a structure for your business – and that structure is needed when you scale up.
To be able to increase the level of customer satisfaction, you need to design a service model that works for you, and for them.
In this guide, I’m sharing the 7 phases of a Signature Client Experience and a detailed list of materials, tools, strategies, and delightful touches that go into a premium/luxury design delivery.
Once you make the decision to grow and scale, you will be working on standardizing your services, products, and processes. Usually, the standardization work starts where it makes the most sense – your client experience.
The client experience design starts at the beginner stage but becomes critical if you want to build consistency, expand, and build a sustainable, scalable, and transferable business.
How do you design one and when is the right time?
The best way to start designing your Signature Client Experience is to map out your current process; and what works and what doesn’t. Of course, if you don’t have enough data, for example, you have not worked on the types of projects or with the types of customers or clients you want, then you need to get that experience first.
Two critical, albeit scary activities:
- do an after-project review with your team and suppliers
- ask your clients for feedback
Both these steps are critical for you to be able to determine how your projects went, and how you want to improve and standardize them!
What goes into the experience?
As said earlier, the client experience starts at the first touch, and it covers your marketing, sales, onboarding, delivery, offboarding, and leveraging of the project.
Each of these steps looks very different depending on what you sell – if you have a service like home staging or interior design, if you run a store, if you sell physical products, if you visit the client at their premises, or if you invite them to a Zoom call. Here’s an example of an interior design process.
A client experience always starts with attracting the right clients to your business. To do this successfully, you need to build a system that does that consistently.
While more and more firms are experiencing increased competition, it’s possible to become the one and only choice for your dream clients. This is achieved by having smart marketing systems that keep attracting the right clients to your firm.
The inquiry phase starts when a potential client finds you through any of your marketing channels and inquires to get more information about your services/products. To do this effectively, you need certain new client inquiry assets in place.
The enrollment is the sales phase, during which you decide whether you are going to offer your services/products, and you agree on the scope. Here is a great structure for designing your Signature Sales Process.
Once you have decided on the scope and timeline, you can start to onboard the client into your services/products. Onboarding means that you kickstart the project in the best possible way, making your clients trust your capability to deliver on the promise.
How you onboard a client will make or break your project and customer delivery. The difference between a great customer experience, both for you and your clients, depends on how well you onboard them.
This is the phase during which your business delivers the agreed services/products to your client. This is where you deliver your magic. You want this to be systematic too, including the best project management practices for premium service or product firms.
The offboarding phase is used to close the project delivery. This concludes your project/product delivery. It’s critical to close a project in an official manner, even if the client wants to add another project.
Of course, some client engagements continue for ages, but even in those cases, when they end, there should be a process for offboarding.
Often overlooked but highly important phase – you leverage your completed project to get more similar projects, either from the same client, from their acquaintances, or from other potential clients! You should also prepare your business to receive social shares and PR opportunities!
What happens if things go south?
For every great delivery you know the next one could be less great, that’s just business as usual. What matters is that you stay true to your values, and humble when you deliver your excellence to your clients.
Some clients might not agree that your customer service experience is great, whereas for others it is the best thing they have experienced, and they happily come for more and refer you to their friends. The key: be intentional, set rules and boundaries, and stick to them!