In 2018, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously revealed that he leaves a vacant chair in every meeting that involves an important decision. The empty seat symbolizes the customer. That visual reminder of the most important person in any business helps all of the participants focus on what matters most.
“Obsessing over customer experience is the only long-term defensible competitive advantage,” Bezos has said.
I believe in 2023 that a customer-centric mindset will be particularly important. All signs point to a softer market, and many areas are seeing fewer leads, smaller projects, and homeowners taking longer to sign contracts.
An environment like this means it’s a good time to think about the client experience in your company. What does it feel like to do business with you? Below are a few real-life examples of what I mean.
What it Means to Have a Customer-Centric Mindset
Recently, I attended a Women of NARI luncheon held at the home of Mary Kathryn Reese, owner of Kitchen Design Concepts. I sat near her back window and commented on what looked like living quarters over the garage. Mary Kathryn explained that it was a two-bedroom guest house that she offers to clients who need to move out of their homes during a remodel. Regardless of whether it’s used, providing that option sends a powerful and positive message to the customer.
We’re installing an electric gate on our property and reached out to a few different companies for ideas and estimates. After making an appointment, one of them sent a friendly, detailed confirmation text. Another sent the following message, “Be by tomorrow to look at gate system.” I had to ask who this was and what time he was coming.
It wasn’t that I minded having to respond, it only took a second and he was a nice guy. But his text had an effect. What would he have typed if he had that empty chair in his mind’s eye? We hired the other company, although their bid was quite a bit higher. Our decision came not because of a single text, but instead because of a dozen small details that showed how seriously they take the customer journey.
Dave Smith, general manager of Smithouse Design + Build, sends handwritten thank you notes every time he gets a referral from a past client. Bob Peterson, founder of ABD, takes his clients out to dinner midway through the job. He also hand-delivers an amazing pumpkin pie during the holidays.
Small Acts Make Big Differences
Taken alone, none of these items are groundbreaking. But when looked at through the mindset of putting the customer first, each of them plays a small, but noticeable role. Whether it’s adding convenience, a sense of being appreciated, or a seamless buying experience, little touches like these will mean even more in the coming year.
What’s most important though is that it’s not the guest quarters, texts, cards, or pies that make a difference. It’s the empathy. Take a look at your business through the eyes of the client—from lead to final walk-through—and then make any needed adjustments. It will help keep your company strong during easy times and lean ones.