In any business, creating a culture of superfandom – and improving your average customer experience – first comes from making people feel welcomed.
It sounds like a given, but I’m sure you can think of times–plural!–when you were made to feel unwelcome in a business. I know I can. On more than one occasion, I’ve felt unwelcome in a place where I had planned to spend money, whether it was intentional on the business’ part or not. Whether it’s a rude look from an employee, being ignored by waitstaff at a restaurant, or a distasteful meme on a business’ Facebook page making a “joke,” – it doesn’t take much to make a customer feel like a rug is being pulled out from under them, rather than a red carpet being unfurled before them.
Because of this, the importance of creating a welcoming environment for new and existing customers cannot be understated. Here, in part two of my Superfan W.A.V.E. blog series, we’ll break down three easy ways to create this environment in your business and ensure that every customer feels welcome, no matter which team member they talk to and no matter what they purchase.
Want to start back at the beginning? Sign up for my free five-day W.A.V.E. video course as a companion to these blogs! It’s full of practical tips and tricks to keep your customers happy as a clam (And yes: the puns continue in the videos, too. Sorry, not sorry! 😜 )
Recap of the Superfan W.A.V.E.
Before we get into the nitty, gritty details of welcoming customers, let’s quickly recap the Superfan W.A.V.E. as a whole. The first part of this system, the word “superfan,” references the customers that consistently advocate for your brand. Although these clients aren’t getting any monetary benefits from sharing their love for your company, they’re excited about it and, as a result, can’t help but share that love with others. They’re not just fans of your products and services. They’re super-fans.
In the second half of the name, the W.A.V.E acronym, each letter stands for a different component of creating superfans, including making customers feel welcomed, appreciated, validated, and engaged. Over the years, I have found that if your brand can consistently instill these feelings in your customers, everything else will fall into place. You’ll make more money, find more success, and become more relevant. What’s more—you’ll become “uncopyable,” all while enhancing the lives of your customers, and more and more of those customers will turn into superfans. Talk about a win-win!
The Importance of Welcoming Customers
That said, before you can turn a customer into a superfan, you have to first make them feel welcome. Whether it’s through the atmosphere of your business or the manner in which your team members address potential customers, even seemingly small details can make a customer feel like they don’t belong, and, when customers feel unwelcome, they take their dollars – and their influence – elsewhere.
Take the 1990 classic Pretty Woman, for example. Early in the film, employees at a clothing store reject Julia Roberts’s character based on her attire and her language. However, she later returns, draped in shopping bags from stores who welcomed her business rather than judging her appearance, culminating in the scene below.
Even more than 30 years later, this scene is iconic, largely because most of us have felt that feeling of rejection before. In fact, our brains process the emotional sting of feeling unwelcome, excluded, or ostracized very similarly to how physical pain is processed, prompting us to avoid situations that bring on that feeling of separation. You don’t have to be a neurosurgeon to know that causing your prospective customers pain isn’t a smart business practice.
The solution to this problem is ensuring your customers feel welcomed from Day 1. The simplicity of this can feel deceptive, especially when you consider that everyone at your company will at some point almost certainly be responsible for someone’s first impression of your brand. Consequently, it’s imperative that every member of your team is on the same page about what “welcoming” looks like and how to make customers feel welcome, even in the smallest ways.
How To Make Your Customers Feel Welcomed
Creating a welcoming company culture is more complex and interconnected than it seems. Depending on the size of your team or your brand offerings, it can be a challenge to outline a uniform vision for the foundation of your customer experience strategy. In light of this, it may be worthwhile to reflect on these questions:
- What specific steps are you taking to make potential customers feel welcomed in the places they interact with your brand online? Over the phone? In person?
- What specific steps are you taking to help your employees create a welcoming environment for your customers? Do your employees feel welcome, too?
For each of these questions, your answer shouldn’t be a simple “yes” or “no” but, rather, a list of existing practices or practical ideas to make a welcoming environment a staple of your brand.
Admittedly, if you’re struggling to get started, that’s understandable, too. It can take time to implement a regular system for your business, and that’s what this guide’s all about! Plus, to get you started, below are three simple ways you can begin today, even if you’re starting from scratch.
Have a clear “welcome” strategy for every customer at every touchpoint.
First and foremost, outline a clear and simple plan for welcoming customers at every point of the customer experience. When they first come in contact with your brand, they should feel welcome. When they’re considering a purchase, they should feel welcome. Even if they’re not your ideal client, they should feel accepted and encouraged to look around, literally or figuratively.
To create this atmosphere, you can start with something as simple as a “hello” in-person or a “welcome” email. From there, as the customer considers your offerings in greater detail, you can match their interest with more complex welcome efforts. These can include an email series, targeted advertising, or a pop-up chatbox. Whatever the avenue for your message, the key is to welcome them in a way that’s authentic and personable. That way, they feel confident that you genuinely want their business and you’re not just sweet-talking them until they make a purchase.
It’s also important to note that this applies to existing customers as well, as they are even more likely than a potential customer to make a purchase. Provide a welcoming environment for them to re-engage with your brand, and that likelihood increases even more.
Consider a “welcome” offer for new customers.
Another way to provide a welcoming customer experience is to consider exclusive offers for new customers. These can be discounts, add-ons, anything to add incentive for people that are on the fence about making a purchase. Alternatively, if extra products aren’t in your budget, consider a boost to your standard services instead. This is a common offer among software companies, for example, many of which offer additional onboarding time for new customers.
However, if you offer a “welcome” deal for new customers, make sure it doesn’t alienate your existing customers. Cable companies, for example, are notorious for offering a reduced rate for new customers. Then, when the “welcome” period is over, that rate skyrockets. This isn’t to say that all cable companies operate using this model. But, for those that do, even initially satisfied customers can quickly change their minds and start considering other cable options.
My advice? If you’re going to offer a special “welcome” for new customers, stick to a one-time discount. It doesn’t have to be huge, but a one-time offer (15% off your first purchase, for example) is a sure way to entice customers to purchase without complicating the sales process for them or your team. Plus, it’s easy-to-understand and super transparent, so no customer makes a purchase and then has their expectations crushed.
Consider a special “white glove welcome” for referral customers.
Finally, to provide a welcoming customer experience for referrals from past clients, consider a special “white glove welcome.” With any new customer, being welcoming and polite is key to protecting your own reputation. But, when people refer someone to your brand, they’re putting their reputation on the line, too.
To protect your customers’ reputations as well as your own, make sure you’re rolling out the red carpet for referrals. If you know the referrer, mention them in your welcome call along with kind words to show your appreciation. If you don’t know the referrer, make a point to ask, and thank the new customer for striking up a partnership with you and your team. Then, let the existing customer know how you’re welcoming the person they “brought to the party.” That way, they know that you want to support them in return, and they’re more likely to send even more referrals your way in the future.
Again, making your customers feel welcomed is merely the foundation of the Superfan W.A.V.E. Only by building off of this step can you truly create superfans. For more information, check out the next step in my Superfan Series, “Customer Retention 101: Do You Make Your Customers Feel Appreciated?.”
Have an exceptionally welcoming experience of your own? Find me on social media @BrittanyHodak, too, and tell me the company that made you a superfan for life! 🎉