Intuitively, most people recognize the value of a great client experience. Brands that deliver them are ones that we want to interact with as clients — that we become loyal to and that we recommend to our friends and family.

The 2017 Digital Marketing Trends Report by Econsultancy and Adobe asked companies to indicate the single most exciting opportunity for their organization in 2017 – and for the third year in a row, the same answer came out on top. Companies who successfully implement a client experience strategy achieve higher client satisfaction rates, reduced client churn, and increased revenues.

How is client experience different from client service?

In most cases, a client’s first point of contact with a company is usually through interacting with an employee (either by visiting the office or by speaking on the phone). This gives your business an opportunity to deliver excellent client service.

However, client service is only one aspect of the entire client experience strategy.

For example, if you book a vacation on the phone and the person you are speaking with is friendly and helpful, that’s good client service. Yet, if your tickets arrive early and the hotel upgrades your room, then that’s a great client experience.

How important is client experience strategy?

A business cannot exist without its clients, and this is why companies are focusing on how to attract new clients and perhaps, more importantly, retain existing clients.

The challenge here is that even though it’s a high priority, many companies are failing. When Bain & Company asked organizations to rate their quality of client experience, 80% believe they are delivering a superior client experience. This is compared to only 8% of clients who believe they are receiving a great client experience.

Client expectations are rising faster than the speed at which companies can improve their client experience strategy. Clients expect every interaction to be the best experience they have with any company, so the question remains, how can your business create a great client experience strategy?

1. Create a clear client experience vision

The first step in your client experience strategy is to have a clear client-focused vision that you can communicate. The easiest way to define this vision is to create a set of statements that act as guiding principles that come from your broader company vision, mission, and values.

For example, Zappos has embedded their core values into their culture; which is to deliver wow through service, to be humble and to embrace change.

Once these principles are in place, they will drive behavior. Every member of your team should know these principles by heart and they should be embedded into every client interaction.

2. Understand who your clients are (Ideal Client Profile)

The next step is to clarify your ideal client profile. If you are going to really understand client needs, wants, and values, then they need to be able to connect and empathize with the situations that your clients face.

One way to do this is to create an ideal client profile and give each a name and personality. For example, Anne is 55 years old; she is a senior executive at a large bank. She is busy with career and family activities. She has low risk tolerance and is very practical. She doesn’t want to worry about her money.

By creating ideal client profiles, you can recognize who they are and understand them better. It’s also an important step in becoming truly client centric.

3. Create an emotional connection with your clients

Emotionally connected clients are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied clients. These emotionally connected clients buy more of your products and services, visit you more often, exhibit less price sensitivity, pay more attention to your communications, follow your advice, and recommend you more – everything you hope their experience with you will lead them to do.

4. Capture client feedback in real time

How can you tell if you are delivering a great client experience?

You need to ask! It is very important to capture feedback, ideally in real time. Client surveys can be delivered using a variety of automated tools through email and calls.

And of course, it is great to call or meet with clients in order to gain more insightful feedback.

We encourage our clients to ask a single straightforward question as part of the feedback process:

“Would you introduce us to a friend or relative?”

5. Use a quality framework for development of your team

The next step is to identify the training needs for each individual member of your client experience team.

Many businesses may assess the quality of phone and email communications, however, a quality framework for professional development takes this assessment one step further by scheduling and tracking your teams’ development through coaching, learning, and training.

6. Measure the ROI from delivering great client experience

And finally, how do you know if all this investment in your teams, process and technology are working and paying off? You need to monitor and measure the business results. What are the results from your survey and conversation with clients? How many new introductions?

Client expectations are higher than ever. As the client becomes even more empowered, it increases the importance of your client experience strategy.