Remember the last time you felt truly appreciated as a customer (after the initial sale was completed)? Some describe it as a warm and fuzzy feeling. Others might come away thinking, “These people really get me.” At CodeGeek, we call it being delighted.
We’ve been in the business of website design and development since 2002, and our goal is to build long-term relationships with each of our clients. As a result, we are fortunate to enjoy repeat business from over 90% of those we’ve worked with. And we try our darndest to increase those warm, fuzzy feelings for our customers by focusing on improving our customer experience.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve experimented quite a bit with customer experience. We’ve had a lot of successes as well as some things that didn’t pan out the way we expected. We’re sharing both with you for inspiration and lessons learned so that we all can continue to delight our clients.
Getting Started with Customer Experience
What Is Customer Experience and Why Is It Important?
Customer experience (CX) covers all the interactions your prospective and current customers have with your business. It starts from the first moment customers hear your name or visit your website. Their experience encompasses your working relationship and can sometimes continue even after they are no longer your client.
We’ve seen how great business-to-business (B2B) customer experiences can fuel amazing word-of-mouth marketing for our team. In some cases, we’ve received enthusiastic referrals from people who we haven’t worked with in years. That’s how powerful paying attention to the customer experience can be.
A recent Accenture study showed that 33% of clients “who abandoned a business relationship last year did so because personalization was lacking.” As a team, we value making those personal connections with our clients and wanted our customer experience to reflect that from the very start.
With that segue, where did we even begin?
Identify Areas of CX Improvement
After a few team discussions, we identified the most important CX areas to focus on improving. Yours may be different depending on where you are in your customer experience journey, so it’s important to have an honest and frank discussion with your team (and perhaps some close clients) about where you could improve things.
I’ve divided our CX efforts into these categories:
- Create Great First Impressions
- Stand Out From the Crowd
- Strengthen Relationships
- Deliver Surprises
#1: Create Great First Impressions
When new, prospective or existing clients walk into our office, we want them to feel that our team is a partner they can trust and one that will be around for many years to care for and help them. Our words and initial presentation matched that vibe, but our physical space did not.
Address the Space
Once we started the focused CX journey and we intentionally viewed things through our clients’ eyes, we zeroed in our conference room.
This is the space where all prospects and clients spend their time with us, and we realized (in horror) that we were offering them chairs that were duct-taped and bleeding white stuffing. Getting new conference room chairs moved immediately to the top of our priority list.
We also decided to display some accolades we’ve received to showcase our award-winning client work and to create a library of books to emphasize our team’s love of knowledge and lifelong learning.
Prospective clients will notice details like these. Making these changes not only helped us feel more proud of our office space, but they also gave us more credibility and a sense of professionalism that’s appropriate for the type of work we do. We’re not all seriousness, though, as our fancy new chairs and library might suggest (keep reading).
Showcase Your Team in Unique Ways
Our team loves to travel, and our company culture is well-suited for those who embrace remote work. We frequently regale each other with tales from around the world, and so that became a team CX effort, too.
To involve our whole team in the CX experience, we asked teammates to pick up mugs whenever they traveled to distant lands. These mugs are now proudly displayed and available for clients to use. Since we’re a globetrotting group, we have mugs from as far away as Nepal and as near as Cleveland. (We had to start collecting beer glasses because our coffee mug stands are maxed out!)
When clients come to visit, it’s fun to give them a warm beverage in a mug from an exotic locale. Treating clients like visitors in your home helps put everyone at ease when meeting for the first time.
Set Out a Welcome
Nothing says “you’re welcome here” like a literal sign that says “welcome.” We’re so used to seeing a welcome mat in front of people’s homes that it’s a natural extension to do so at work. Of course, we were in shock that we hadn’t thought of it sooner.
Since we work in the digital world, it felt appropriate that our “welcome” sign would be on a mobile device. So now, whenever a client visits the office, we prominently place a special welcome sign personalized with their logo, names and special message on our iPad.
This small gesture yielded results immediately. When a client sees their personal greeting, the exclamations of joy and audible gasps can be heard throughout the office! It’s such a great feeling to be personally recognized during a normal workday.
#2: Stand Out From the Crowd
Everyone is getting bombarded with messages these days. Between emails, social media updates, and text messages from the vet reminding you to bring Mr. Fuzzypants in for his annual shots, it’s a challenge to be heard over the noise. So we sat down and came up with some ways to stand out from the crowd.
Deliver Delight to Their Mailboxes
One of our biggest CX improvements came in the form of what we call the “Website Upgrade Kit.” The purpose of these kits are to provide fun, helpful tips related to websites—and to make recipients feel special.
These kits include a pack of custom-designed cards with useful information written in a down-to-earth style on a variety of website topics. The Joker card links to a series of rotating tips on our website, which provide even more valuable intel on keeping sites happy and healthy. We also include a custom sticker, a branded thumb drive and a couple of handy-dandy coasters.
Unlike regular kitschy swag that traditionally ends up in the trash, we purposefully made the kits with products people could use—and without excessive packaging. For example, instead of putting plastic wrap around the pack of cards, we wrapped them up in velcro cable ties that could be reused.
While these kits did take more thought and effort than other approaches, we embraced the opportunity to be creative and environmentally friendly, and in the end, we hope that the kits have a longer-lasting value for our clients. (And who can’t get enough of our monkey?)
Show Them Where We’re Taking Them—Visually
We understand that technology is not what everyone considers a fun time—we get that, we really do! And if we’re all honest with ourselves, most people only want to hear about the intricacies of our work for about the length of an elevator ride.
So to make it easier for our prospective and new clients to understand our process without boring them, we developed a visual that shows a common website development project from start to finish.
Not only has this helped our clients understand where we’re taking them on their website journey, but we’ve also found that this easy-to-understand visual can help answer many frequent questions our clients have … before they even ask them.
Thank Your Cheerleaders (a.k.a Referrers)
Since we have personal referrals to thank for the bulk of our incoming projects, we try to go out of our way to show our deep appreciation to those who referred us.
Empathy is a huge component of CX, so to determine what would speak love to our referrers, we put ourselves in their shoes. The overwhelming consensus was that we all thought with our stomachs. And the sweeter the “thanks,” the better.
We have a few thank-you options that team members can choose from, such as sending a box of giant cookies, locally handmade scones, or a Starbucks e-gift card sent straight to their inbox. Let the noms begin!
#3: Strengthen Relationships
Whoever said “business isn’t personal” doesn’t know how powerful a personal connection can be in a business setting. While a company itself isn’t personal, people make up your business and still want to be seen as individual people, not as a wallet full of money or cogs in a machine.
Deliver a Delicious Welcome
Along the same lines as our referral thank-you treats, our mascot Randall, the banana-loving monkey, inspired another yummy, on-brand CX touchpoint to kick off our relationship with a new client.
Once a client contract has been signed, we celebrate by sending a loaf of locally made, tasty banana bread (with a personalized thank-you note) straight to their door. We also have been known to send it to clients who are experiencing life milestones, such as having a baby or buying a house, because a celebration is a celebration!
These loaves of love are a BIG hit with our clients! Here are a few appreciative notes we’ve received:
“Thank you all so much for the bread and the wonderful card you sent us. I was very surprised when I opened the box and found it. The boys and I put the bread down pretty quick and it was amazing…You guys are awesome, we are grateful for all the hard work you’ve done for us over the years. Thank you so much.”
“We opened the box today and had a delicious slice. We shared it with the rest of our team. Thank you!”
From one poor client who happened to miss the package, but his team did not: “I was just now notified that we had a rather delicious cake arrive in the mail some time ago. Seems no one let me know about this delicious cake! The crew here enjoyed! Thank you very much.”
Honor the People (They’re Not Just Clients)
Working on a website can lead to close relationships with our clients, and we often hear about their personal lives—both the good and the bad. So we try to remain mindful and take note when something significant has happened.
When a client loses a loved one, we send a sympathy card signed by the whole team so they know they’re in our thoughts during this difficult time. When a new baby arrives, a new home is bought, or an exciting trip is taken, we send a note of congratulations (and ask for photos).
Celebrate What You’ve Achieved Together
As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, we <3 long-term relationships with our clients. We recognize that it’s a journey, with ups and downs and even some sideways turns. That’s why it’s so important to remember that we became partners so that we could create something together. And that’s a reason to celebrate.
Every time a website or web application launches, we send a “birth announcement,” complete with Randall in a diaper. The card congratulates the client on their new website or app, including “measurements” of the end product and the date the website or app was “born.”
While parents (including those on our team) will agree that launching a website is not as life-changing as giving birth to and caring for a newborn, creating an awesome online presence is still a major step forward in the lifecycle of our clients’ businesses. And it’s a delight to celebrate this milestone with them.
#4: Deliver Surprises
One of the best ways to delight someone is through the element of surprise. Knowing that someone else had you in mind as they created something delightful makes you feel special. It can take a lot of work and secrecy to pull these surprises off, but the results make all the effort so worthwhile.
Get Creative at the Holidays
For years, we had been sending the classic holiday cards to clients, contractors and friends. Although they were beautifully designed and personally signed, we suspected that they were thrown in the recycling bin long before the New Year arrived. And besides, why was a digital agency sending printed holiday cards? We decided to change things up.
So in 2018, we cranked the holiday card idea up to 11 with the Holiday Experience project (best viewed via desktop), and pretty much everyone on our team got involved.
This experience began with a jolly email that linked to a page on our website. Visitors were encouraged to click through to find the treasures and secrets hidden all over the page. (Go ahead—you know you want to find them, too!)
Our clients LOVED this experience! Many sent unsolicited responses, something that had never happened with our printed holiday cards.
“That’s the coolest digital card EVER! Nice job you guys!!!
“I love this! It is creative, interactive and fun!”
“Thank you so very much … you will never know how much this helped make my day.”
CX: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
While this is the end of this post, rest assured that we’re constantly finding new ways to improve our customers’ experiences with us—to help create great first impressions, stand out from the crowd, strengthen our customer relationships, and deliver surprises..
Be forewarned, though: Once you start down the path of delighting your customers with amazing, personal experiences, you won’t want to stop … and your customers will love you for it!
Have you had a great customer experience? Share it with us!