Roll Out the Red Carpet for New Customers

Getting off to a rocky start usually leads to an unhappy customer.

Fall is the start of the new school year, new beginnings, new relationships. And for business, it's the time for new hires and new projects. The first steps set the tone; first impressions are powerful. Bad starts are tough to fix later.

Most of the business owners I work with have an onboarding program for new hires.  This helps to orient new employees and gain quick wins. Many successful companies, particularly technology firms, have a formalized onboarding program to get new customers up and running and happily paying that monthly fee.

Good customer onboarding is deliberate; it will pay dividends for years.

During Labour Day weekend, excited new students throughout the world descended on university campuses. Students and parents alike share in the excitement of their school's orientation. As a freshman student, I loved Orientation Week. As a parent who has been through dropping off two students at campus, it's exciting, emotional and can be critical to the student's success. Students spend months and sometimes years choosing their university. These first few days are when they get to experience their first taste of campus life.

My daughter was no different. For months she and her friends talked about their choices of schools and finally said their goodbyes. A few of her friends checked into their schools before her... many of them described the experience as 'anticlimactic' and 'underwhelming'. Someone said, "No one, not one person welcomed me to my res."

Watch this video and see how St. FX welcomed my daughter, Courtney.

The President of the University hosted a reception and personally welcomed each student to their "new home at St. F.X." It felt like a giant pep rally. Afterwards, we pulled up to the residence building and a student leader introduced herself. "Hi, I'm Sarah and I'm here to help you move in, get settled, and answer all your questions." She then helped us unpack the car, provided us with tools to put furniture together, and took Courtney to her room where she was greeted with a personalized welcome sign on her door. When we were finished, Courtney was ushered into a room to meet everyone.

My friend Maura's daughter lasted only 4 days at her college. No one welcomed her, her parents moved her in and, after 4 days, she packed her car up and drove back home. For three years her daughter talked about that school. It was "the school to go to", "best residence life", "one of the highest-ranking schools in her chosen program".

96 % of unhappy customers don't complain, and 91% of unhappy customers leave and never come back.

Roll out the red carpet, make a big fuss and welcome your new customers with a cheering squad! When organizations do this, it sends a message. It says, "You're important." When they ignore us or treat it like it's just another project, it says "We're not a priority to them, this project mustn't be a big deal."

If you've been in a presentation, speaker series or training program with me, you've heard me say, "When we sense the company is empathetic toward us and cares about us, we are much more likely to trust." Principle Number One of building and restoring trust is: listen carefully with empathy and compassion. Every new student and every new customer is looking for validation.

New customers are asking themselves... Did I make the right choice? Are they going to do what they promised? Is it really like what the testimonials say it will be? Can I really trust them?  

Getting off to a great start reassures your clients.

Here are some questions to start the discussion to ensure your customer onboarding is effective:

  • What do the best companies do to wow us?
  • How do we welcome new customers, start new projects?
  • Do we provide the resources and encouragement that employees need to provide exceptional customer experiences?
  • How can we provide more value?
  • What do we need to continue doing, stop doing and start doing?

A deep understanding of the impact of the customer's first experience can set you on the path of earning the trust and loyalty of a long term customer.

Imagine if every project, every relationship started with the excitement of walking down a red carpet. What would this do for your team, for your customers, for your company?