A recent (bad) restaurant experience reminded me of the crucial nature of engaging and converting customers through your website.

With COVID-19 cases on the decline and the vaccine being steadily rolled out, I decided to venture out to a local patio for the first time in many months. My friends suggested we eat at a new restaurant, which made my inner foodie happy. On our way to the door, one of them said, “The food at this place is amazing, but the service is terrible.”

Now, I’ve been to many restaurants where the server was having an off day, so I tend to take these comments lightly. Unfortunately, she was dead right.

The food was delicious. No, it was even more than delicious; it was phenomenal. In fact, I’ve thought about that salmon bruschetta several times since we went. But the service was so terrible that I won’t be going back.

This was not an acceptable experience for converting a first-time visitor into a repeat customer.

The story is the same when it comes to visitors for website enrollment.

The Importance of Customer Engagement

Let’s break down the grievance list:

Issue 1: Noise level

The restaurant was loud enough that I could hardly hear the people sitting two feet away from me—not inviting or comfortable.

When it comes to your website, make it a place that visitors feel welcome and not overwhelmed with “noise” – i.e. content. Gitte Lindgaard and her colleagues at the Human Oriented Technology Laboratory found that it takes 50 milliseconds for a person to form their opinion of a website’s visual attractiveness. For comparison’s sake, it takes 250 milliseconds for a human to blink. A visitor will never convert to an enrollee if you can’t get them to stay on the page for even one second.

Issue 2: Welcoming environment

I lose enthusiasm for a restaurant if I go longer than 10 minutes without being greeted. Preferably the greeting happens within moments of my entering the waiting area.

According to Pingdom, a leading website performance monitoring program, websites have a grand total of five seconds to load up and engage before 38% of their visitors leave. When the clock strikes the sixth second, over half of your conversion opportunities just backspaced out of the site, and 80% of them will never visit again.

Issue 3: The customer is always right. Always.

Pamela Wilson, an award-winning graphic designer and marketing consultant for Big Brand System, hit the nail on the head when she wrote, “We buy from people we find agreeable.” We’ve heard the quote, “The customer is always right” for a long time. That’s because the customer is always right, even when they’re not. If you want to optimize enrollment, neutralize your feelings and focus on what they are most concerned about or interested in.

Issue 4: Personalized service matters

Anytime a person visits your website, remember, it’s about them. Interactions should be customer-centered every time the opportunity presents itself. Existing and potential customers are tickled pink when they can have a personalized experience. In fact, according to Epsilon, a leading outcome based marketing company, 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase if your brand offers a personalized experience.

It’s imperative that the potential customer’s experience be absolutely stunning or the customer will take control of the wheel, shuttin’er down because the experience desired wasn’t achieved.

You Can Do It!

A few suggestions for enhancing engagement:

  1. Offer a unique branded experience that includes a visually appealing enrollment site. When a visitor enters the site, they are instantly scanning. The more professional the site looks, the more likely we visual creatures will stay there
  2. Engage website visitors quickly – really, really quickly. Remember that the average visitor will give the site a whopping three seconds, so find a solution that pops out at visitors and grabs their attention within this time frame. The more personalized the engagement, the more likely they are to stay around and convert.
  3. Try to minimize areas where disagreements can arise. People like funny, cute, and emotionally relatable material, so steer clear of the politics and religion (unless that’s your branding). And always use facts over opinions.
  4. It’s important to offer a unique branded experience for customers so they can connect with the company; the key word being “unique.” Always attempt to wear the customer goggles when viewing a situation, so you can see it from their point of view. Obviously it’s not feasible to completely individualize every interaction, but an “experience designed for everyone satisfies no one.” Focus on smaller areas, like a design persona, to enhance customization instead of trying to tailor every bit of the site to every person’s preferences (which is impossible).