How can your environment improve the customer experience?

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. It’s a cliche, but it’s true.


The beginning of a service relationship is critical to its long term success. It significantly impacts retention and cost to serve customers later in life. It’s an area that we put a lot of emphasis on when we work on the redesign of a service with our clients. Get it right and you’re off to a flying start!


How can you design your environment to create a great customer experience?


For many businesses, the first interaction they have with a customer will be in their premises. That’s true for anyone in retail, professional services, hospitality, or healthcare for example.


By thinking carefully about the design and layout of your premises you can positively impact the customer experience and make it easier for people to do business with you.


Back in 2008, I was brought in as Interim Managing Director of a specialist accountancy business in Aberdeen. We did some research to understand how our customers viewed and experienced our service and we learned that for many people, visiting their accountant was a stressful experience.


We had an opportunity in 2009 to move into new premises, so that was our chance to make a big change to the environment, and as a consequence to improve the customer experience.


In our previous office, we shared a reception, so we had no influence over that and as a result over the first impression our clients got. By moving, we regained control.


Working with our designers, we created an environment that looked nothing like the traditional accountant’s office. We wanted an environment that would help our clients to relax as soon as they walked through the door. We used pastel colours on accent walls, and chose furniture that was both comfortable, nicely designed, and that people wanted to linger in.


We designed each of our meeting rooms in a different way. One was boardroom style, one was multi-functional, another (my favourite) had a pink wall with words that our staff had chosen emblazoned on it, a couple of sofas and a union jack bean bag. Clients loved coming into that room!


We also thought carefully about other things that could create a positive impression on our clients, so rather than offering nescafe, we invested in a coffee machine from the guys at Caber Coffee. The smell of fresh coffee in the reception was amazing!


The finishing touch was handmade chocolates from Cocoa Ooze. The little touches made a huge difference. Clients popped in just for a coffee and some chocolate. We won a lot of referral business as a result.


How can you do this in your business?


You don’t have to completely redesign your space, but you can think about what would make your premises more welcoming for customers.


As always, it’s never rocket science. It just needs you to think a little differently and to see things from the customer’s perspective.