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January 15, 2014

The Customer Experience: Make it Easy to do Business with your Firm

My wife and I had to run to the mall this past weekend… one of the stops was Banana Republic to pay a credit card bill that was almost due.  On the way over, my wife mentioned to me that she really liked Banana Republic – that it was one of her favorite stores.

Spoiler alert… those feelings were about to come to an end!

We walked in to the store, only to be told that they didn’t accept payments for credit cards on premises… that we’d have to mail it in, do in on the phone or online.  “Wait a minute… you don’t want to take my money!”  Store policy!  So we walked a little further down the mall to The Gap, the parent company for BR… surely they would take my money.  Wrong again.

We headed back to the car… and in order to not be late with the payment, my wife decided to call it in right away and proceeded to process the payment through a long, drawn-out series of automated prompts.  During the call, the automated system said that if we wished to process the payment with a real human being, there would be an additional $10 charge!  Are you kidding me?!  So she finished the process using the automated system.

As a point of comparison, when we walked into Lowe’s (hardware) a short while later, we stopped at the customer service counter and asked the young lady, “If we wanted to pay off our Lowe’s credit card in person, could we do that here?”  “Of course,” was her answer.  Now that’s what I wanted to hear!

As we headed home, my wife said she will not be going back to Banana Republic.  Bingo!  A perfect example of how the customer experience impacts repeat business.

So, ask yourself this question… “Do we make it easy for our clients and prospects to do business with us?”  For example:

  • Is our website easy to navigate and for visitors to find what they’re looking for?  [If you’re saying ‘yes’ without any sort of visitor feedback, consider conducting some usability testing on your site.]
  • Does our website make it easy to understand what we do (all firms will do this), what we’re good at (some firms will do this) and how we’re different (almost no one does this)?
  • Do we make it easy to contact us?  And do we reply quickly?
  • Do we make it easy to submit a request for bid?  Do we utilize an online submission form?  Do we have someone assigned to check this frequently?  And do we quickly acknowledge receipt of all requests?
  • Is our proposal template easy to understand?  That is, it is clear and concise… or is it full of page-after-page of sales pitch?
  • Once we win the project, do we make working with our PM staff easy? Does each PM have a back-up when they’re out of the office?  Do they give out their cell phone numbers so they can be reached whenever they’re needed?
  • Do we make our billing easy?  Are our invoices and statements clear, concise and simple to review and approve?

You’re right!  None of these things are difficult to do… but then, neither is paying on a credit card bill at the front counter of a Banana Republic store.  But sometimes, particularly if you’ve been in business for a long while, processes and policies creep up that make it difficult to do business with your firm.  And you never see it coming.

The fix?  Every so often, remember to take a step back and look at the client and prospect “touch points” of your business to make sure that’s not happening to you.

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