Several years ago I checked into a Westin hotel in Vancouver. It was the second time I had visited and I arrived to find a bowl of fruit, a cookie and a hand-written note welcoming me back. I thought it was a nice touch and I told a friend that it felt “comforting” after a long day of travel.
Notice that I told my friend how it ‘felt’. What I didn’t say was how impressed I was with the technology that tracked that this was my second visit, my awe that they must have hired a band of interns to sit down and write all those notes or examine what was involved in delivering those gifts to exactly the right people. I didn’t want to know how the sausage was made; I focused only on how the outcome made me feel.
I have to imagine that when the big brains at Westin sat down to map out that strategy the first question they asked was this. How do we want our guests to feel when they arrive? Everything else was a simple matter of execution.
I believe we should all ask ourselves the same question. What do we want our clients to feel as the result of working with us? The answer may not be obvious and will almost certainly differ from one firm to the next. But until you can answer that question, it’s difficult to design a client experience that is exactly right.
And because ‘feelings’ can be incredibly difficult to communicate, it pays to get outside your own four walls and look at what others are doing, what you want to replicate and what you want to avoid.
How to ‘Experience’ the Client Experience
At the risk of stating the obvious, you need to ‘experience’ a great client experience. More than that, however, you need the entire team to have the same vision for the client experience you want to deliver and to understand what makes it great. Today I wanted to share with you some specific ideas on how advisors and their teams are setting a higher standard for their client experience by getting outside of their own four walls.
The Client Experience and Shoes
Zappos sells shoes but is renowned for its customer service. The company’s founder Tony Hsieh, has become one of the leading voices in what it means to deliver an outstanding client experience.
Barry Glassman is the CEO of Glassman Wealth and he shared a story of how he used Zappos to help his team align around a clear definition of extraordinary service. Barry asked each of his employees to order two pairs of shoes via Zappos. This is my kind of research; it involved shoes and cost less than $1,000. He then asked each team member to return one pair of shoes, leaving the first as a gift. At that point the team got together and shared their experience, both the experience of the purchase and the experience of having to make a return. I imagine they discussed the process, the interface, the connection with customer service. More importantly they would have discussed how they felt at each stage, what made an impact and what made this experience different from everyone else.
The Client Experience and Hotels
Ritz Carlton is one of the most recognizable names when it comes to the client experience. In fact, they are so closely connected with great service that they have developed training programs that teach people, across industries, about how to deliver a Ritz Carlton standard of service.
Fritz Brauner is the President of The Brauner Company and he has also helped his team truly experience what a great client experience really feels like. Here’s what he shared with me recently.
Once a year we take our team on a “field trip” to the Palo Alto Four Seasons for lunch. The purpose is for them to see what exceptional service feels and looks like. Back at the office we ask each team member what they noticed, what stood out, and how we might do the same with our clients. Even something as simple as “Welcome to the Four Seasons” has been incorporated by greeting clients when they come into our office with “Welcome to the Brauner Company.” A small thing but, as Brian Tracy says, “Everything counts.”
If you’ve ever shared vacation photos with someone and felt incapable of describing how it felt, you understand something about client experience. You can map out the perfect process on paper, but you need to feel it, to feel the impact of it, to really understand what ‘great’ really means.
The other benefit of this approach is the involvement of the team. You create a shared experience with an important outcome and, in the process, you create buy-in, pride, ownership and commitment. Perhaps as importantly, both leaders managed to create a process that appreciated their contributions while using the experience to get even better.
Thanks for stopping by,