Wowing Guests and Customers

In December, Jessica Zike and I ran one of our “What and Why” surveys asking over 400 people ‘What recently Surprised and Delighted You?’ and ‘Why did it make an impression?’  The goal was to find out some of the creative things companies are doing to ‘wow’ their guests/customers and to understand what it is about these memorable ‘little moments’ that stay with a customer.

The responses fell into three major categories:

1.  Merely Showing Up
These customers were ‘surprised’ when they received merely competent service at businesses that generally disappoint. A hand-written note from a bank manager, a quick (but not extraordinary) response from a credit card company, and two (count them!) two, friendly people at a fast food restaurant! One respondent raved about a retail staff member who called a sister store when they did not have the right size. Friendly technical support staff earned the most earnest raves. My favorite was the one where a customer accidentally cancelled their cell phone plan and was ecstatic they weren’t charge a penalty to rejoin!

I think most managers in hospitality businesses that are seeking scarce discretionary dollars would love to have it this easy.

2.  The Upgrade

Hotels and airlines were cited often for upgrading the guests’ guestroom or airline seat.  In a time where many businesses have excess capacity, an upgrade seems to be a no-brainer. Businesses should examine any excess capacity and use it to upgrade.  A fish market that bought too much shrimp can send everyone home with a sample of their Peruvian Ceviche.  Employees standing around when it is slow can insist on bringing the customer’s purchases to the door.  In a world where many upgrades are used as a bait and switch, the refreshingly simple act of doing a little more scratches an important itch.  Businesses that challenge their staff about the concept and have surplus capacity will likely learn some unique ways to surprise and delight.

3.  Compensation

This garnered the most responses and was represented in all major industries.  When businesses make a mistake or come up short, it is clear that even a gesture makes an impact and compensation in the form of a free meal, a $5 gas card, or a small credit to a cell phone plan made a huge impact

We all know the value of service recovery which means organizations respond appropriately when their customers really need them, but this reminds me of a caveat I learned from a hotelier a long time ago:  You can spend a million dollars building the perfect guestroom or spend $5 recovering the experience when it isn’t.

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