I had a chance to attend a panel discussion on the future of design. One of the themes for the discussion was customer experience. It is a topic many AEC companies don’t seem to care too much about. We’ve been taught that in B2B relationships, price and competence are the only things that matter. This lesson does us a disservice since creating memorable customer experiences can really make your company stand out.
The power of customer experience and its value has been discussed in consumer businesses for years. Customer experience is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. The AEC industry is primarily a service one, so it seems odd to believe that paying attention to the customer experience is a futile task.
Clients are the direct customers of many AEC firms. What would create a great client experience in architecture, engineering, or construction? Here are 10 empirical tips for you to consider:
Strive for your client’s success
Demonstrate that you are interested in your client’s success. Work in a way that makes your client stand out. If you can do that, your own success will follow. Suppliers who only seem to be driven by their own success will be treated as expendable.
People have various styles and personalities that don’t always coincide with yours. Even if you are in a B2B business, you are dealing with individuals not with organizations. Try to learn how to work with all types of personalities and communication styles.
Act like a professional
Always come prepared, use a systematic approach to your works, and present a clear course of action. If there are unclear issues, talk about them and offer solutions. Show that you are in control of what you’re doing. This creates confidence and reduces the client’s perception of risk.
Make things as simple as possible
Technology is becoming more complicated, and information abounds. Apple has shown how simplicity, not inundating your customer with choices, is a terrific business strategy. Make your service both simple to buy and to use.
Help clients understand
Clients sometimes lose opportunities because they have limited knowledge or information. Use whatever means is best to make your clients understand their options and to become confident to make decisions.
Most projects at some point experience unexpected issues. Don’t let the client be the first to notice that there’s going to be a problem. Don’t wait until the client asks. Use your knowledge and experience and make observations to prepare for any potential problems
Step into the gray zone
When work is divided into small tasks among specialized suppliers, it can be hard to know exactly who’s responsible for what. Don’t hide behind formal agreements. Go the extra mile to secure a positive outcome even if you are not formally obliged to do so. Nothing is more distressing than having suppliers accuse each other and then expecting the client to act as a referee.
Don’t underestimate the power of details
We pay attention to details to such a degree that we often forget the big picture. You can use this fact to your advantage. Take care of details that your competitors would neglect.
Meet with your clients or call them to tell how things are going especially if there are no problems. If the calls you make are always about problems, your client certainly has a memorable experience, but not in the right way. When there are actual problems, always try to present a way out so your client does not feel trapped.
Once the project is complete, follow up regularly. Most competitors rush to the next project and never look back. Following up even if you do not have any future projects slated with the client is an absolute necessity. Try to become the first supplier who comes to mind when the client is planning for the next project.