A “Wow” Experience Is Not Enough

We have been told that to attract referrals and clients, we have to provide a “wow” experience. But that’s just not enough on which to base a business development or referral marketing plan.

Last week, I was discussing with an advisor his strategy for utilizing his client advisory board to generate referrals. During the conversation, he said “We have to make sure we deliver such a fantastic experience that the clients will tell everyone about us.” This is a philosophy I have heard many times. As a business development strategy, it has some serious shortcomings.

One issue, of course, is that there is no generally agreed upon definition of “wow.” Too often, when I have heard an advisor say this, they then went on to provide their own interpretation of “wow”, and that is one way to disappoint clients. What matters is that you exceeded the client’s expectations, not your expectations of what the client wants. And all clients are different. For that matter, how will employees understand what “wow” is? And how can they deliver it if they cannot clearly translate it into behavior?

I remember one time I established a new relationship with a bank. There was some form that I neglected to sign or something.  The manager, in her pursuit of delivering the “wow” experience, drove to my office to deliver it to me. My reaction was “Why is there a bank manager in my lobby? The mail would have done just fine. I don’t need to be interrupted right now.” My assistant went out to see her. She dedicated a meaningful portion of her day to drive something to my office, as testament no doubt to their dedication of delivering an outstanding customer experience.  And if it had any effect on my attitude toward the institution, it was mildly negative. She focused on her assumptions of a great experience and ignored my expectations.

The bigger issue of “wow” is that too many people say it. And, yes, most do not deliver it, but YOU do.  I know. But how will prospects know that? If a prospect interviews five advisors, and they all say they deliver an amazing client experience, how will that help the prospect to choose you?

If you dedicate yourself to consistently deliver “wow” how will you operationalize that? If you are committed to providing “wow” then you must have procedures around it and they must be measured. Much, much better to define exactly what your service comprises, and explain that to clients.  Better yet, ask them if that is how they would most like things to be handled. Then create processes to deliver  that consistently and manage to those processes.

If you commit to delivering a “wow” experience, you will thrill some clients and it will generate some referrals. People are attracted (and make referrals) to firms that represent specific solutions and experiences that particular clients seek. Define what those solutions and experiences are, and test them with clients. Once you have determined what the target clients’ expectations are, build processes to meet them consistently and exceed them periodically. Then you will have a performance goal all your employees and clients will appreciate, and that they will tell others about. And that will yield a much greater return than simply “wow.”



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