I think it’s safe to say that I have become borderline obsessed with all things client experience. I can hardly interact with a business anymore without analyzing, dissecting…and maybe even slightly judging….the experience that I’m being provided as a customer. If you are a business owner (especially if you are operating a business in a saturated market), you can’t ignore this. You just can’t. This is a bold statement to make, but I’m going to go ahead and say that without an amazing customer experience, you aren’t going to be able to compete. In the photography industry (which is my industry), good photographers with all the right equipment and pretty websites with killer portfolios are a dime a dozen these days. Through the years, it has become harder and harder for everyone to stand out from the crowd, get new clients and thrive as a business. Guys, the client experience is everything. It’s the difference between being remarkable or being forgettable. If we want to last, we’ve got to not only get this right…but we’ve got to absolutely kill it.
Last month Geoff and I decided to take a couple of days away to make a plan for the things we want to do and the areas we want to grow in for the year ahead. We had heard of Old Edwards Inn located in Highlands, NC for years, but had never been until this trip. And y’all, it was amazing. I am always super inspired by companies that just “get it”. They understand that the full customer experience matters deeply and they have taken great measures to perfect it by eliminating customer pain points and adding great value in simple ways. Last year, after a trip to Waco, TX, I wrote the post “What I Learned About the Customer Experience From My Visit to the Magnolia Silos” and wanted to do a similar post reflecting on our visit to Old Edwards. This one was especially fun to do, as it has super relevant and easy takeaways for creative business owners to apply to their own businesses. So here you go…three things you can learn from Old Edwards about how to take your business from good to great and deliver an outstanding client experience.
1. Deliver An Amazing Onboarding Experience
I give Old Edwards a 10/10 when it comes to making us feel welcomed and acquainted with all that the Inn had to offer, as well as getting us excited for all that was to come throughout our stay. When we first arrived and parked our car, a bellman was at our side in an instant to greet us and grab our bags (I also took notice of the umbrellas by the door that I’m certain they grab for guests to stay dry on rainy days…details like this…they matter!). Upon entering the lobby we were offered a glass of champagne. Although I don’t personally care for champagne, I thought it was a great touch to uplevel the experience and really make guests feel welcomed, special and cared for. After checking in at the front desk (I should mention, all of the staff were very friendly and warm), our bellman took us on a brief tour, pointing out all of the amenities of the Inn and answering most of our questions before we even had to ask. We were escorted to our room and found ourselves greeted by a welcome note, an informational magazine/booklet and a chocolate chip cookie…one for each of us! Chocolate chip cookies….well, they just might be my love language, so you could say that by this point, I was on cloud 9. We had been there for no less than 15 minutes and I had already converted into an Old Edwards super fan, to which I promptly took to Instagram to let everyone know. 🙂
Takeaway/Application: Making a great first impression can really set the stage for producing not only happy clients, but true raving fans. If we want our clients to tell others about our business and share our name with their friends and families, we have to do something worth remarking about. As a business owner, I suggest taking yourself through your own onboarding process that you offer to your clients to really develop an understanding of what they are feeling and experiencing through this crucial part of the client journey. First, make the time to assess your welcome process to determine where you can reduce or eliminate client pain points. From there, add value into the experience through key touchpoints. The goal is to ensure your clients are confident in the decision they just made to hire you and that they are “wowed” from the get-go.
2. Delight Your Customers
As if the chocolate chip cookies weren’t enough!
Four words. Dove ice cream bars. When you stay at Old Edwards Inn, there is a little refrigerator in the “butler’s lounge” that is straight heaven sent. Guys, you can get complimentary DOVE ICE CREAM BARS whenever you want…24/7. As many as you want! This was simultaneously amazing and downright dangerous…especially for a sweet tooth like me. But mostly, it was amazing. 🙂 (Quite shamefully, I ate five ice cream bars in two days. One of them was immediately after breakfast).
Takeaway/Application: Surprising and delighting your clients is such a great way to take your experience from good to great. Not to mention, it’s just plain fun to do things to bring a little extra sunshine into someone’s day. Again, take yourself through your client journey to identify touchpoints that you can incorporate delight. In the wedding photography world, my favorite touchpoints to do this is upon booking, after the engagement session, Valentine’s Day, one month before the wedding day, at final product delivery, Christmastime and key anniversaries.
3. Make It Personal.
Because we wanted to maximize our spa day at Old Edwards (which was bliss, by the way), we intentionally had made late reservations for dinner at Madison’s (the restaurant inside the Inn). After showering and getting ready, we still had some time to spare, so Geoff and I met in the Inn’s lounge for drinks and an appetizer by the fire. Shortly after placing our order, a man that looked like a manager approached us to check in just to see how we were doing and if we needed anything. That alone, struck us as great service. A few minutes later, he returned and said, “You are Mr. and Mrs. Schultz, right? You have dinner reservations at Madison’s for 8:30pm, correct? Would you like for me to check to see if they can get you in any earlier?”. While we politely declined his offer, as we were excited about our truffle fries that were to come, we were struck at the level of service and personal attention.
Takeaway/Application: This is really where the magic happens. This is the space that you can show kindness and generosity, whether that be with your time, effort or sometimes even, money. This is where you can really take care of your people and make them feel special. Have you ever heard the expression that in business, you should treat every client like they are your only client? That’s excellent advice right there. Write that down and do that all day, everyday. For me, I work really hard on our systems to deliver a consistent experience for all of our clients, but I also figure out ways to personalize their experience by loving and caring for them as individuals. Sometimes that means sending a heartfelt email or text checking in or congratulating them on an achievement. Or sometimes that means sending a note in the mail with a giftcard for coffee if they are going through a hard time. This really begins with getting to know your people and choosing to go the extra mile. Anytime I pick up on something that seems to be important to a client, I write it down in their client folder so I can reference later. Or, if it’s something that I can act on immediately, I do it!
You have certainly wowed us, Old Edwards. Thank you for delivering a rock solid experience for us, for going above and beyond and giving us a reason to scream your name from the rooftops! We had the best time and will definitely be back again soon!
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