Ah, spring. When the weather finally warms up, the sun’s shining more than it’s not, and the days seem to have just a few more hours. Which makes it a perfect time to throw open all the windows and do some deep cleaning. Spring cleaning doesn’t just have to be at home though: your personal branding and customer experience should get a refresh as well! This is a great time to look at aspects of your brand that you don’t normally examine, and see how you can spruce them up.
Having a personal brand will make networking less daunting and more intentional. It helps potential employers understand what you’re about and what you can bring to the table. Additionally, if you run a business of any size, you – personally – represent the company, and your personal brand has an impact on how customers view your company.
I get personal branding – but personal customer experience?
Yep! CX isn’t just for giant corporations. You as a professional have customers – whether they’re clients, patients, employers, consumers, or colleagues. That means you can shape the experience those people have with you and make sure that experience reflects your brand.
So take some time today to dust the cobwebs off your personal brand and customer experience! Here’s how:
1. Create or freshen up your core message or value proposition.
Brand is so much more than a logo or a signature color. Your brand is a message that tells people about who you are as a professional. Perhaps the best way to get to the core of that message quickly and efficiently is with a personal value proposition. Your value prop is a specific statement about what you do, how you do it, and why people should trust you to do it. Once you have crafted a great value proposition, you’ll have a purpose and an elevator pitch for networking events, and an anchor for all your branding and customer experience activities. If you already have a value prop, go you! This is the perfect time to review it and make sure it’s still relevant and accurate.
2. Start with the basics.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the advice to Google yourself and try to clean up any unflattering results. That is a great first step (although cleaning up doesn’t have to mean sanitizing – you want people to see you as a human being). Once you’ve removed as much of the bad stuff as you can, add lots of good stuff, with professional social media accounts and, if appropriate, a personal website. It doesn’t have to be huge and fancy – a free, 2-4 page WordPress site is fine. Use these spaces to showcase your knowledge, your accomplishments, and your personality. Writing articles and blog posts will further your reputation as a knowledgeable and trustworthy professional. There are countless outlets and spaces available to you – it’s just a matter of finding the best fit.
3. Be intentional
Customer Experience and personal branding start with a goal. How do you want your customers to feel when they interact with you? The obvious answer might be “happy” or “satisfied”, but try to be more specific. Perhaps you’re a physician who wants your patients to feel comfortable and healthy. Or a wealth management professional who wants your clients to feel as though their money is safe and growing.
4. ABC (Always Be Consistent)
Your social media channels and website don’t all need to have the exact same profile picture, but make sure they all look like you and are all current. Different channels have different purposes, so your exact wording doesn’t need to be identical, but use your value proposition to ensure the core message is the same everywhere people can find you. Your business cards and other stationery should all feel like part of the same brand. Spring cleaning should entail a review of all the places you have a presence to make sure the content is up to date and consistent.
5. Be available and responsive
A core principle of customer experience is to be where your customers are, so they can reach you easily. It’s no different for an individual professional. Do you have a phone number and email posted on your website and social media profiles? Are you open to requests and connections on LinkedIn? Make sure people can reach you in the way that they prefer. If you’re in an industry with niche forums, such as a local business group or a professional message board, make yourself available on those platforms as well.
And when someone reaches out, always reply quickly so as not to leave anyone hanging. You can create some templated responses to dole out for common inquiries if it helps, and if you need a few days to craft the perfect reply to a particular question, send a quick note saying so. It can be as simple as “Thanks for reaching out. I want to get you the best response/most accurate information possible, and will respond with a thorough reply by Thursday.” (And then get back to them by Thursday!)
Be responsive throughout an engagement, not just when someone first reaches out. Your last communication to someone should be just as timely as your first. If you have a formal engagement with a customer, consider setting up regular check-ins so they feel confident in the process. Your spring cleaning may include a review of your communications processes and mechanisms.
6. Do good work
This may seem obvious, but it’s core to customer experience. No experience can be positive if the product or service is terrible! If you buy a car, it doesn’t matter how beautiful the dealership was, how helpful the salesperson, or how convenient the maintenance services are – if the car drives poorly and is always breaking, you’re having a bad experience. Likewise, if someone hires you or your company, it doesn’t matter how great your personal branding is if your actual work is not high quality! You should always be learning and improving your skills, and spring cleaning is the perfect time to do an honest assessment of any gaps or opportunities to make your work even better.
7. Keep in touch
Connect with customers from time to time to see how they’re doing, even if you’re not currently in an engagement with them. Depending on your field and role, this could be as simple as sending a “happy birthday” message via social media, or mailing a postcard with a special offer. Find a way to check in unobtrusively, in a way that is helpful for your customers while letting them know that you’re thinking of them.
7. End on a high note
No one likes eating a delicious meal at a fancy restaurant, only to wait for the check for forty minutes. A poor last touch will leave a sour taste in anyone’s mouth, regardless of how great the rest of the experience was. That last touch could be a farewell email to coworkers, a “thank you” after a final payment, or a prompt handling of any problems. This is a nice place to add a special touch: when my husband and I bought our house many years ago, our real estate agent gifted us a small wind chime. It was an unexpected step that brought us happiness, and made us more likely to recommend her to others in the area.
Whatever spring cleaning looks like at your house, chances are you’re taking a look at places you don’t normally examine, and sprucing them up. Your professional brand and customer experience deserve the same special attention!