A Recipe for Online Indigestion
It’s no big secret. Customer relationships develop on the web. New prospects or client referrals decide to jump in or bounce off, in just a few seconds. Do you welcome them in, guide them through, and leave them fulfilled with the experience?
Patrick O’Connell, chef at The Inn at Little Washington, a Double Five Diamond restaurant, has mastered the dining experience. How? He dissects his guests journey. From making a reservation, up to a year in advance, to paying the bill at the end of the meal, customers go through five stages.
Anticipation - Trepidation - Inspection - Fulfillment - Evaluation
What does a dining experience have to do with a website? Although there’s little nutritional value, an effective web strategy will put food on your table. Plus, it closely parallels the key elements of an enjoyable meal. Most importantly, if a customer has a favorable experience they are more likely to refer and recommend you. Positive reviews and referrals from satisfied customers are a cornerstone for any business, yours included.
The Inn at Little Washington is located 90 minutes from where a customer is likely to live. The five diamond rating makes it a highly desirable destination. But dining at the restaurant means committing to a lengthy drive. If friends, family and other rave reviews aren’t enough, the drive further builds the level of anticipation and expectation.
A Favorable Referral Creates Anticipation
What happens when a customer refers a prospect to your company? You may not have a five diamond rating but a positive referral creates anticipation. A favorable experience sets the bar. Be it a unique capability, fabulous service or a low price, the new prospect is anticipating good things.
At the restaurant, as the customer walks in, their anticipation immediately collides with trepidation. Perhaps expectations are too high. Or, they are concerned that something will go wrong. In fact, they likely bring past negative dining experiences. Only after the guest is seated and sipping on their drink do they become fully aware of their surroundings.
But instead of the maitre’d greeting your new prospect, it’s your website. And the trepidation starts when your new referral types the url into their browser. Poor loading speeds, tired, non responsive designs, stale content and confusing navigation bruise our online experiences. Only after a prospect quickly arrives at a well designed site do they start digesting content and capabilities.
Next, the restaurant patron begins the process of inspection. They are looking for any flaws in the overall picture. Much like your online visitor, they are observing to make sure all the pieces are put together properly. Is the navigation intuitive and easy to use? Does the site flow with a good layout and effective use of images? Are resources, including case studies, videos, how to guides and more, available? Has the blog and other content been updated recently? They are sizing you up to determine if you are above or beneath their expectations.
There are numerous contact points that take a guest up and down the spectrum of satisfaction. As your meal concludes at a fine dining establishment, you might discuss it based on comparable dining experiences and rate it accordingly. A website is evaluated in a similar fashion. B2B sites are often judged by their peer group. But if you have an ecommerce function, you will undoubtedly be compared to Amazon. Ultimately, it only takes a few seconds for a prospect to judge the touch points and decide if you are worth more time.
A restaurant evaluation might continue for weeks or months as friends and colleagues inquire about the experience. If you’ve done your job online, you can translate the favorable experience into satisfied customers that provide referrals for years to come.
But fumble the first step and the prospect will be gone, unlikely to return. That’s a recipe for online indigestion.