Do you provide a service or an experience?

You ordered a glass of wine and two bottles of water. The bill came to US $40 Are you shocked? Horrified?

I recently came across a receipt from my trip to Italy last year and, rather than cringe in pain when seeing that receipt again, I smiled at the instant memory of the experience which it generated. It was one of the few nice weather days we had and I was sitting with my uncle and mother at an outside table in the center of Piazza Navona (Navona Square) in Rome watching local artists selling their works and people milling about.

Why did I smile rather than cringe? It was the "experience". I was immediately brought back to the people, the chatting, the smells, the feel of the warm sun on a winter's day, the sound of the Fountain of Four Rivers — all of it, generated off a receipt for wine and bottled water.

Now I want you to stop and think for a moment. What type of *experience* do you/your business leave your clients with?

Are they happy they did business with you? Are they frustrated? Did you answer the phone with a smile? Are your emails friendly or clipped?

In this age of technology-driven companies and recorded receptionists, are you providing your clients with a personal touch? It's the personal touch, the feeling that they are special to you and your business that will bring them back again and again.

With the Internet, clients (and customers) today are extremely fickle. They can quickly and easily "Google" another company that provides similar goods and services. You need to create an iron cage around your clients — and you do that by creating loyalty. You should be the *only* virtual assistant or consultant or pizza company that they think of when needing your services.

You create loyalty by consistenly providing your clients with a positive experience.

Let's go over that one more time: "You create loyalty by CONSISTENTLY providing your clients with a POSITIVE EXPERIENCE."

Now before you dismiss all of this and say "I can't do this, my business is different!", let's discuss some ways you can create loyalty through positive experiences.

1. Care about your client.

My husband and I went on a Celebrity cruise to Alaska with another couple a few years ago. It was the most amazing trip of my life. If you ask my hubby about the trip, he immediately focuses on two things: the glaciers (a little hard to beat those) and our waiter, Sanchez. Sanchez was, by far, the best waiter we have EVER had. He remembered all of our names, our likes, our dislikes, our quirky requests, everything — and this was after one dinner.

We felt truly cared about. And how he added to our experience was reflected in the end-of-cruise tip he received — five times the recommended amount. 🙂

Similarly, there was a local used car dealership which prided itself on caring about its customers. They even offered free, no-appointment-needed oil changes for as long as you owned your car and free loaners whenever your car needed repairs.

One of their salesmen lived up the street from me and whenever I needed work done, he would swing by in the morning and drop off a loaner and bring my car back that night — fixed and ready to go (including a wash and vacuuming). He didn't get paid any extra and he wasn't even "my" salesman. He, and everyone else at that dealership, prided themselves on the total customer experience.

The result — my husband and I told everyone we know how great they were and, within the course of 2 years, 16 people we referred there purchased vehicles. Not including my parents who originally referred us and bought two there themselves. Then they changed ownership and service was never the same — the company quickly went out of business. Care about your clients and they will care about you.

2. Personalize your approach.

I have a client who is very relaxed in nature. She loves to laugh and joke and have a good time. I have another who is very formal and serious. I enjoy working with both of these clients and personalize how I work with them so they remain in their comfort zone while working with me.

I also do A LOT of reading and clip out and send things of interest to each of my clients as I come across them. It's not always about business, as a result of working together, I've learned their personal interests and send them things related to what they care about.

3. Keep in touch.

In addition to my ezine and regular coaching sessions, I "touch" my clients, past clients and prospective clients, at least six times each year. Each "touch" gives them something positive — whether it be holiday wishes, a discount on a new product or a gift — and reminds them that I am here if they need me.

4. Thank them.

As simple as this sounds, many businesses forget to thank their clients for doing business with them. Your clients have a choice — they CAN go elsewhere. Thank them for doing business with you. Thank them personally, thank them in writing, thank them with discount coupons. . .just THANK THEM!

5. Be generous.

If you have a client who is currently going through some tough times, do something to let them know that you care and will stick by them during this time. Whether you extend your invoice terms, offer them a discounted rate or otherwise "help" them during their time of need, they will remember it. It's human nature to want to do something good for someone when they have done something good for us — let them "do something good for you" by being a loyal customer.

These are just a few ways that you can give your clients a positive experience when dealing with you and your business. Have staff? If so, you'll want to ingrain this in every one of them — from the receptionist to the shipping clerk.

What can you do today to insure a positive client experience and make your business remarkable?