How to say hello to a customer

Recently I blogged about the right way to say goodbye to your customer. How you say hello to a customer is even more crucial — in fact, so important that Guy Kawasaki devotes several pages to the power of the first impression in his latest marketing best seller, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. Leaving a good first impression creates a halo effect for your brand. My recent experience with consumer printer maker Epson is a case in point.

If you have ever set up a printer or any other consumer technology product, you understand why I felt like slitting my wrists when I realized I needed a new printer for my MacBook at home. Researching and deciding on the right one – an Epson Artisan 725 – wasn’t so bad; it was the set-up process that I dreaded.

I anticipated the painful and confusing wrestling match with information technology that I’ve come to expect with consumer electronics. Confusing instructions. Devices that won’t talk to each other. And perhaps a bewildering experience with a call center for good measure. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?

One day the Epson Artisan arrived on my front porch like a bomb waiting to be activated. My first impulse was to clean my daughter’s hamster cage and finally get around to thoroughly understanding my employer’s expense reporting policies – anything to avoid a confrontation with the large cardboard box waiting for me.

Finally I caved in and opened the box. And I was in for a surprise: a flawlessly easy experience that transformed me from consumer-as-victim to Epson ambassador. Here’s why:

1. Epson shows empathy

As I opened the box, I anticipated having to wade through a lengthy manual and sorting through a box of random parts requiring assembly. Epson understood what I was thinking. I had barely opened the box when I encountered a slender, prominently placed envelope labeled, “Open Me First.”

Open Me First – like a welcome mat in front of a home. Immediately I felt just a bit more comfortable.

2. Instructions are easy

The Open Me First Envelope directed me away from the owner’s manual (which indeed contains a lot of technical information) and instead steered me to a 4-page “Start Here” document that omitted detail that I don’t need to know in order to set up the printer.

The “Start Here” guide contains the simple instructions for getting your printer online. The guide leaves nothing to chance and uses simple, declarative sentences like “Turn on and adjust” or “Raise the scanner and remove the transportation lock.” The instructions are written like headlines or Tweets: short, informative, and easy to digest.

3. Graphics actually make sense

Colorful and accurate graphics complement the text.

For instance, the instructions for installing printer color cartridges employ familiar road sign symbols to tell you what not to do and easy-to-ready zoom images to show you where exactly you install the cartridges:

If you’ve ever struggled with graphics that don’t quite look like the product you bought, you understand why accuracy is not a given.

4. Digital/offline interface is seamless

The set-up process requires you to install software on your laptop and follow a few instructions that appear on a small digital screen on the printer itself. Here again, the instructions that appear on your laptop screen when you use the installation disc are clear:

And the printer’s digital screen contains easy-to-understand imagery:

Think about it the moving parts at play: I’m reading paper instructions, then my computer screen, then a printer screen – lots of opportunities for dropping the ball. But the experience was seamless.

5. Epson shows TLC

Epson does not assume you are going to successfully set up its Artisan 725. The company provides instructions for what to do if you encounter problems, including self-service recommendations for the most common set-up problems and contact information for technical support.

I tested the tech support number and got through easily with a person without enduring phone tree hell.

I realize Epson isn’t the only manufacturer that places “open me first” cards in shipping boxes or supplies short-cut guides for product set-up. But it’s one of the few technology companies that gets so many things right with customer onboarding. In doing so, Epson:

  • Creates a brand ambassador who will tell others about the positive experience (as I am doing with this blog post).
  • Generates a halo effect. If I encounter a problem down the road with the printer, I am more likely to give Epson the benefit of a doubt. Creating a halo effect is something Apple does well in its retail stores. Apple stores feel like consumer technology playgrounds, with friendly staff and products laid out like toys.

Guy Kawasaki asserts that leaving a first impression builds a foundation for enchanting your customers by creating likability. He cares so much about the power of the first impression that he breaks down some very fundamental steps to achieving likability early on in Enchantment. And the fundamentals sound shockingly simple: Smile. Dress appropriately. Perfect your handshake. Use the right words.

Simple rules, right? Yet so often overlooked personally and corporately.

When I cited my positive experience with Epson on my Facebook wall, one of my Facebook friends commented that my delight with a successful printer set-up only underscores our low expectations for consumer electronics that I would be happy that any product works at all.

To put things the way Guy Kawasaki might, I expected Epson to frown and curse at me and was therefore overwhelmed by a smile.

A point well taken.

That said, any company that provides the kind of experience Epson gave me with its Artisan 725 deserves a shout-out regardless of the industry. Epson smiled, dressed its product appropriately, used the right words (especially with its set-up guide), and gave me a warm handshake.

What are your favorite experiences becoming a customer?

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