Don’t Neglect Your “Welcome Experience”

My wife and I just got back from golf camp at Stratton Mountain (it was actually called Stratton Golf University, but we liked to think of it more as “camp.”) As we drove up on the first day, we were greeted by one of the instructors who was standing in front of the parking lot. He showed us where to park, took our clubs, and showed us where to go next to sign-in. Wow — what a welcoming experience!

Let’s disect what went right:

  • We had no anxiety about what we needed to do.
  • We received an immediate “personal” connection.
  • We felt like the “University” was ready for us.
  • We had a great feeling about the week. 

Notice how I discussed what went right in terms of how my wife and I felt about the experience. When I work with companies, I don’t evaluate interactions based on my personal feelings, but in this case I was actually the target audience.

Some lessons learned about a good Welcome Experience:

  1. Assume customers don’t know as much as you think. We typically spend 40 hours or more per week at work — and many more hours thinking about work and our company when we’re not even there. So we know a whole bunch about our products, services, and processes. But, alas, customers don’t spend nearly that much time thinking (or caring) about our business. So firms have a tendency to assume that customers know more than they actually do — like where to park and what to do with your golf clubs.
  2. Make sure that customer know exactly how to start. If customers don’t know where to go first, then there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll get lost. But as obvious as that sounds, we still find that many experiences fail to get customers going in the right direction. What do these flaws look like? Website homepages that don’t provide clear evidence that the user can accomplish her goal; IVR menus that don’t offer a match to what a customer wants to do on the call; and large airports that don’t provide clear signage to the check-in locations for all of their airlines.
  3. Set the tone right away. If you want your customers to think that you are helpful — establish that context right away. Good or bad — the Welcome Experience shapes how customers view every interaction after that moment. As they say: you only get one chance to make a good first impression. 
  4. Provide feedback along the way. Don’t think of the Welcome Experience as a facade — it’s just the beginning to a continuous experience. Make sure that you provide customers with clear signals and insights as to what they should be doing next. The golf instructors didn’t just point to a building and say go there and register, they took us to the door and pointed to the registration table. We’ve all seen when this goes wrong. Think about a detour you were forced to take when you were driving — only to find that there were only a sparse set of detour signs along the way. Even if you were heading in the right direction, you still wanted to see a sign saying that you were on the correct detour route.

How can you tell if you have a good Welcome Experience? I can think of 2 great ways:

  • Ask your customers. Why not ask customers in your post-interaction surveys about specific elements of the Welcome Experience. Or even interrupt a few people early in the process and ask them what they like/dislike about the experience.
  • View the experience through your customers’ eyes. As you’ll find out in many of my posts, I often recommend that companies internalize the concept of Scenario Design. Think of your target customer and ask the questions: Who is that person; what are her goals? how are you helping her accomplish those goals?

At this point in my post, you’re probably waiting for me to get to the bottom line. So here it is: We had a great time at golf camp — and my wife and I are both hopeful that we cut at least 5 strokes off of our golf scores (which were pretty high to begin with).

About Bruce Temkin
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service, and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

3 Responses to Don’t Neglect Your “Welcome Experience”

  1. Big E says:

    Bruce, that’s pretty insightful. But what would you suggest those of us in the professional services world (i.e. law firms, accountants, consultants) do about the welcome experience? After all, most of our initial client encounters is in a big meeting room, sitting around a large table, either making a presentation or participating in a meeting. How can we make that first encounter more “welcoming”?

  2. Bruce Temkin says:

    Big E — great to hear from you!

    I would think about the “Welcome Experience” as the initial set of interactions with clients that makes them feel at ease, sets the correct expectations, and provides a clear path for them to proceed.

    For a professional services firm that has clients showing up for a meeting in your office, a good welcome experience might consist of the following:

    > In advance of the meeting, provide clear directions to your office (including parking options) and any definitive start/stop times for the meeting.
    > Clear signage to your office and a visible reception area so that clients know exactly where to go when they come into your office.
    > The layout/design of the reception area that represents the tone/brand of your firm — hip, conservative, fun, cheerful, etc.
    > A comment from the receptionist saying: “Welcome “Mr. So And So”, I know that Big E was expecting you. You’re meeting will be in the “Board Room.” I’ll let Big E know that you are here. Can we get you a hot or cold drink?”
    > At the beginning of the meeting, provide an agenda (with the client’s name on it) that outlines exactly what you plan to discuss during the meeting.

    Hopefully this helps.

  3. Big E says:

    Thanks Bruce. That’s helpful. As you said in your initial post, we often get so caught up in our own business we forget that “little” details can make a world of difference.

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