This post on client experience is based on the Masters of Scale Podcast’s episode featuring Airbnb’s Brian Chesky.
When you face the pressures of growing your practice, it’s easy to forget about designing your client experience empathically. This is even more difficult if you don’t get feedback from your customers. This post outlines how to create a 6-star client experience that scales.
For Brian Chesky, Founder of Airbnb, the need for feedback was brought into relief in the early days of the company when he was going door to door to his customers. Chesky was taking ‘professional’ photos of his customers’ houses to upload them to his new website. While performing this job, he asked one customer “have you got any other feedback?” The customer presented Chesky with a binder containing dozens of pages of notes, giving him a “roadmap” for the Airbnb product.
The take-out? Passionate client feedback shows that your product genuinely matters to someone. One passionate client can turn into many if you use feedback to design your service. Note, feedback shouldn’t just be a part of experience design, it should also be a part of your client retention strategy.
To put yourself in the shoes of the customer, try to determine what a one-star experience is.
For example, consider a boutique law firm. A client might give you one star if they’re not acknowledged when they arrive for an appointment and, half an hour later, someone tells them that their lawyer is busy. They’re told to call the office tomorrow to book another time and then the phone isn’t answered when they call.
A three-star experience might be that their lawyer achieves a good result, but is unresponsive, doesn’t manage expectations well with respect to scope, fees or time.
Our friend and partner, Carl White of CXINLAW, describes what I would class as a 4-star experience.
Will a 5-star experience make your clients talk about you?
A five-star experience would involve the job getting done well, on time, on budget and in a friendly manner. Even with a five-star client experience, it’s unlikely your clients will tell anyone about how good your service was. Why would they? You might have been performing round-the-clock heroics to get them the best result possible, but from their perspective their expectations have simply been met.
Chesky describes a hypothetical six-star experience, and then a 7-star experience for an Airbnb customer:
“You knock on the door, [the host] opens, get in: “Welcome! Here’s my full kitchen, I know you like surfing – there’s a surfboard waiting for you, I’ve booked lessons for you, it’s going to be an amazing experience and by the way here’s my car, you can use [it] and I also wanted to surprise you…this is the best restaurant in San Francisco, I got you a table there”
He ramps this up to an 11-star experience. You arrive at the airport, Elon Musk greets you and takes you on a chartered rocket flight to outer space…you get the point.
Ratchet up your firm’s client experience to 11-stars, then pull backwards until you create something feasible, but memorable. 9+ stars almost certainly won’t be feasible for your firm. However, going through the process allows you to find a sweet spot. i.e. an experience that lies between the 5-star experience described above, and going to space!
This is incredibly broad advice, but thinking in these terms gives a different perspective to 6-star experiences. By continually adding stars and then pulling back, 6-star experiences start to look quite feasible.
This is essentially the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach. Rather than guess at what your clients want and build and build something expensive that no one wants, make this great experience at low-cost. When you’ve validated it with customers (i.e. measured it with feedback), iterate and perfect it.
This is the point at which you should start delivering it more efficiently through automation and outsourcing. The ultimate aim should be to maximise the benefit to customers at the lowest cost to you. Importantly, this includes the cost to develop and implement, not just the cost to run. The trick is to not make a huge investment in an “efficient” solution that scales theoretically but fails due to lack of client appetite.
I’ve had a 6-star client experience with MailChimp, the marketing automation platform. After grilling their live chat with half an hour of tedious technical questions, all of which were answered thoroughly and empathically, I thanked the customer support agent for his patience. His response was to thank me and have some free MailChimp merch of my choosing delivered to my office.
I went for the T-Shirt rather than the Monkey Hat for Dogs. I actually wear it.
What 6-star experiences have you had?
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Ben Farrow is a Co-Founder and Director of FirmChecker. You can connect with Ben on LinkedIn and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.