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Focus on the client experience

Matt Pais

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Client relationships change when you focus on being memorable.
agefotostock/Fanatic Studio

As far as one-liners go, Dennis Moseley-Williams has one that’s as memorable as it is profound:

“Disney World is the only place where everybody’s in line and they’re always happy” he said.

It’s pretty astonishing, really. A vacation destination where people seek escapism and entertainment, and yet extended delays are par for the course and not a deterrent. That the long lines are part of the fun, not the pain, is the achievement of the experience economy.

The key, said Moseley-Williams, a consultant who helps organizations improve their customer relationships, is that places like Disney World invest not in services but in experience. At heart, he said, what the park has to offer is not uncommon: rides, fantasy and people dressed up in costumes. “But what Disney is into is a theme,” he said, “and their theme is a place where adults and children can have fun together, and everything they do is eliminating sacrifice and pain.”

The ability to create experiences that people look forward to is seen in many successful operations. It can be as simple, Moseley-Williams said, as Dairy Queen staff members turning a Blizzard upside-down so customers can see the density of the candy-inflected ice cream dish. Or consider Starbucks: On the surface, the globally recognized chain is simply a series of coffee shops. Big deal. But the brand, Moseley-Williams said, is about being a destination — the third place you spend time, after home and work — and the experience of simply being there.

Impressions are the fingerprints a business leaves on you. When you walk in, how does it make you feel?

“When you walk into Starbucks, it’s a performance,” Moseley-Williams said. “The entire thing is staged just for you to star in.” In other words, the aesthetic and social cache of the brand intend to add up to a point where people are almost sad when it is time to order because they are just happy to be there. Moseley-Williams posited that Dunkin’ Donuts, arguably less of a hangout destination, wakes up and asks, “Who am I going to sell coffee to?” By comparison, Starbucks asks, “How am I going to make you feel at home?”

So what does this have to do with your business? It is about maintaining this notion of clients seeing their experience with you as time well spent, not just the buying and selling of a product. For example: Moseley-Williams’ advisor has told him that anyone can manage his money; it is the experience he offers that leads to a guided transformation.

More specifically: That happens because his advisor organizes cooking classes for clients who constantly travel for work to reinforce the importance of home and family — with the intent being that the clients will use what they learn in class during their time at home. The advisor also organized an event where a university professor spoke about raising kids without anxiety, another example of serving clients in a way that benefits them far beyond what they buy from you.

It is about thinking beyond what kind of business you think you have and focusing instead on what kind of experiences you can provide for clients. To do this, you should focus on the theme of your business (what you stand for), the impressions you make, the uniformity of the cues, appealing to people’s senses, memorabilia clients can take home and the signature moments they won’t forget.

For example: If your entire staff stands and introduces themselves when a client walks in, they will remember that. If you are advising clients not to monitor daily market fluctuations but have the day’s business news on TV during your meeting, those cues are inconsistent.

Decorating your walls with clients’ travel photos puts an emphasis on clients’ lives and the type of experiences they want to have. Moseley-Williams cited one advisor who lights his office with lamps, puts on a record, makes coffee with a French press, and uses a variety of sensory experiences to reinforce his theme of “Live slowly.”

“Impressions are the fingerprints a business leaves on you. When you walk in, how does it make you feel?” Moseley-Williams said. “All work is theater, and every business is a stage.”

The 4 realms of experience

Moseley-Williams identified these aspects of creating memorable experiences and said that the best ones draw from multiple realms (such as the edu-tainment of the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week”):

  1. Entertainment. How can I make it more fun?
  2. Education. Besides teaching the technical aspects, what else do I want people to learn?
  3. Escapist. How can I shift my client into a different reality?
  4. Esthetic. What can I do to encourage them to linger?

This presentation was part of the MDRT EDGE in Boston, Massachusetts, in November 2018.


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