My wife and I just got back from golf camp at Stratton Mountain (it was actually called Stratton Golf University, but we liked to think of it more as “camp.”) As we drove up on the first day, we were greeted by one of the instructors who was standing in front of the parking lot. He showed us where to park, took our clubs, and showed us where to go next to sign-in. Wow — what a welcoming experience!

Let’s dissect what went right:

  • We had no anxiety about what we needed to do.
  • We received an immediate “personal” connection.
  • We felt like the “University” was ready for us.
  • We had a great feeling about the week.

Notice how I discussed what went right in terms of how my wife and I felt about the experience. When I work with companies, I don’t evaluate interactions based on my personal feelings, but in this case, I was actually the target audience.

Some lessons learned about a good Welcome Experience:

  1. Assume customers don’t know as much as you think. We typically spend 40 hours or more per week at work — and many more hours thinking about work and our company when we’re not even there. So we know a whole bunch about our products, services, and processes. But, alas, customers don’t spend nearly that much time thinking (or caring) about our business. So firms have a tendency to assume that customers know more than they actually do — like where to park and what to do with your golf clubs.
  2. Make sure that customers know exactly how to start. If customers don’t know where to go first, then there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll get lost. But as obvious as that sounds, we still find that many experiences fail to get customers going in the right direction. What do these flaws look like? Website homepages that don’t provide clear evidence that the user can accomplish her goal; IVR menus that don’t offer a match to what a customer wants to do on the call; and large airports that don’t provide clear signage to the check-in locations for all of their airlines.
  3. Set the tone right away. If you want your customers to think that you are helpful — establish that context right away. Good or bad — the Welcome Experience shapes how customers view every interaction after that moment. As they say: you only get one chance to make a good first impression.
  4. Provide feedback along the way. Don’t think of the Welcome Experience as a facade — it’s just the beginning of a continuous experience. Make sure that you provide customers with clear signals and insights as to what they should be doing next. The golf instructors didn’t just point to a building and say go there and register, they took us to the door and pointed to the registration table. We’ve all seen when this goes wrong. Think about a detour you were forced to take when you were driving — only to find that there were only a sparse set of detour signs along the way. Even if you were heading in the right direction, you still wanted to see a sign saying that you were on the correct detour route.

How can you tell if you have a good Welcome Experience? I can think of 2 great ways:

  • Ask your customers. Why not ask customers in your post-interaction surveys about specific elements of the Welcome Experience. Or even interrupt a few people early in the process and ask them what they like/dislike about the experience.
  • View the experience through your customers’ eyes. As you’ll find out in many of my posts, I often recommend that companies internalize the concept of Scenario Design. Think of your target customer and ask the questions: Who is that person; what are her goals? how are you helping her accomplish those goals?

At this point in my post, you’re probably waiting for me to get to the bottom line. So here it is: We had a great time at golf camp — and my wife and I are both hopeful that we cut at least 5 strokes off of our golf scores (which were pretty high, to begin with).

This blog post was originally published by Temkin Group prior to its acquisition by Qualtrics in October 2018.