What impression are you trying to create–what feelings and thoughts are you trying to invoke–with your business? This is an important question. The work you do here is what I call "setting a scene," a scene that supports the storyline, the plotline, of your business.
Every significant touchpoint of the customer experience can be conceived of as a scene.
For example: What scene do you want to set at the register in your clothing store: “Fast?” Undoubtedly, but that’s not enough. Yet “fast” is about all you’re going to measure with your KPI’s: fast, and maybe accurate. But there’s so much more. The register (or, at more forward looking merchants, the non-register) is one of the last moments in the customer’s retail journey. Think about how much more than just “fast” it can be. Nordstrom thinks it should also be “warm,” reassuring, and streamlined, so they ensure that the counter is uncluttered, they make a point of coming around from behind the register to hand you the bag, making it more of a collegial, collaborative process than handing the bag over the barrier of the counter, and they accompany you to your car if you need or want an extra hand with your new loot.
All of which fits into the overall Nordstrom storyline, which is, I would say, “You can trust us beyond a doubt.”
Even a car repair shop can transform impressions through scene-setting. Jiffy Lube, not a name that probably springs immediately to mind when it comes to exceptional service with a human touch, has improved its service model by setting a different scene from what they did in the past. By offloading transactional details that had previously preoccupied its employees and customers, rolling out an intricate nationwide database to store each customer’s vehicle history and manufacturer-prescribed service requirements. This information is now a couple of clicks away for every customer-facing Jiffy Lube employee, freeing them from onerous paperwork and allowing them to assist customers more easily and knowledgeably.
This fits as part of the overall storyline of Jiffy Lube, which I would describe, in a rhyming couplet of my own making, as “with a minimum of fuss, you can count on us.”
Or think about the experience of walking into an Apple Store. Here, right smack dab in the center of the technology industry, we have a brand that has relentlessly worked to downplay all of the transactional items and processes that would bring you down to earth as a customer, that would make you feel that you’re doing something other than embarking on a great adventure into the future. In an Apple Store, there are no cash registers or checkout lines, and no receipts or owner’s manuals in sight; the stores are uncluttered and the employees are empowered to provide a peerless retail experience. Apple has invested in training a large team of salespeople and customer service representatives to help customers on the floor and at the Genius Bar, where the diagnostic specialists are famously called “Geniuses.”
The storyline here? I’d say it’s along the lines of “We are about your experience, not about technology, processes, specs and minutae.” (Sorry, I couldn’t make that one rhyme; if you succeed in doing so, email me and I’ll update this article.)
What’s your business’s storyline? And do the scenes that customers encounter at your business support it? Think it through and get it right. It’s worth it. Because customers don’t think of the little details they encounter at your business in isolation. In their heads, they wrap their whole experience up with a bow and decide if they liked it or not, if they want to return or not. Make sure they get the right impression, so they’ll make a business-friendly decision.