Creating Moments of Wow

Many companies I consult with are in search of that magical, all caps, bold WOW they can create for their customers that will result in insane customer loyalty. And I’m all for the big WOWs. I love to be on the receiving end of big WOWs. But there’s a problem – they’re hard to create. Big WOWs can be expensive and time consuming, and hard to deliver consistently.

The real magic lies in the “little moments of wow” that simply make customers feel good and feel valued. Most of these little wows
cost next to nothing (or nothing at all) and take little or no time to deliver. But the results can be amazing.

A Moment of Wow

My good friend Jerry recently shared with me a story that perfectly illustrates the point. He and his significant other, Vicky, were vacationing in New Orleans. Over a wonderful dinner at a restaurant called Galatoire’s, Jerry popped THE question. Fortunately for Jerry, Vicky said yes.

Their server noticed what was happening and wanted to help memorialize this special moment. On one of the restaurant’s postcards, she wrote down everything they had to eat and drink that evening. She then invited them to return on their wedding anniversary so that she could help them relive their engagement dinner. Less than sixty seconds were probably invested in this server’s act of kindness, but for Jerry and Vicky it will be remembered forever. And therein lies the magic. It’s not about time and money, it’s about an act of genuine care.

Jerry and Vicky are celebrating their one-year anniversary in a few weeks. They’re going to New Orleans. Guess where they’re having their anniversary dinner?

Wow Opportunities Are Everywhere

Creating a moment of wow simply requires being present and aware of the opportunities all around us. Just recently as I handed a hotel valet parker my keys, he said, “This is a beautiful car. We’ll take good care of it.” Pretty small stuff, but it made me feel valued, if only for a moment. If a hotel can deliver a series of little wows like that over the course a guest’s stay, the overall impression is that magical, all caps, bold WOW.

Examples of little wows:
• The repairperson who puts on surgical booties before entering your home so dirt isn’t tracked in.
• The doctor who sits down while talking with you rather than standing with his or her hand on the exam room’s doorknob.
• The auto mechanic who notes your radio settings before disconnecting the car battery so he can reset your favorite stations.
• The computer helpline rep who shares a tip about something you didn’t even know your computer could do.
• The coffee shop employee who remembers your favorite drink.

These examples are low or no cost, and low or no investment of time. But they result in good feelings and, if done consistently, result in loyal customers. And how great is that?

Something to think about: What simple act of kindness can you do today to wow a customer?

 Something else to think about: How can you build simple acts of kindness into your organization’s culture?



Customer Service Grace Under Pressure

In this video I discuss the art of delivering a positive customer experience, even when things are hectic and you have to move quickly.

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How Fast Are You?

A comment I often hear during customer service workshops is: “Customers have gotten so demanding. They expect too much!”

I respectfully disagree. I believe that customer service in general has gotten so bad that most customers expect nothing, and even a nice smile or sincere hello is a delightful surprise.

The one area in which I do agree that customer expectations have dramatically risen is in regard to speed of service. Technology has trained customers to expect things FAST. Why wait 3-4 days for a book when I can have it in 30 seconds on my Kindle? Why go to the movie rental store when I can use Netflix to stream movies right to my television? Why wait in the store checkout line when I can scan my own items and be out the door in half the time?

And if an organization is too slow, trust me, customers can easily find one that’s faster.

What the Numbers Show

A recent article in Harvard Business Review titled, “The Short Life of Online Sales Leads,” discusses the importance of speed when following up on internet-generated sales leads. According to the researchers, $22.7 billion was spent in 2009 on online advertising in the attempt to attract potential customers. The researchers audited 2,241 U.S. companies to see how well they followed up on the leads generated by the advertising. The results, as you might guess, were all over the map:

- 37% responded to the lead within one hour.
- 16% responded within 24 hours.
- 24% responded in over 24 hours.
- 23% never responded.

The average response time of all companies that responded was 42 hours.

Look at the investment in $$$ to generate business, and the lack of investment many companies make in responding to those leads. Amazing!

And here’s the point – according to the research:

“Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later – and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.”

I believe one of the best comments you can hear from a customer is, “Thanks for getting back to me so quickly!” It sounds like they appreciate your efforts. But remember, if you hadn’t gotten back to them so quickly, they likely would have moved on to a competitor with just a click of the mouse.

Something to think about: Is your speed impressing your customers or causing them to move on to other options?

Do Standards of Performance Stifle Creativity?

In one of my customer service workshops not long ago, I shared some of the practices I learned while working at Walt Disney World. A clearly agitated participant stood up during the question and answer segment. “I’m a university professor,” he announced, “and I’d NEVER encourage any of my students to work at Disney World. They turn employees into robots and stifle all creativity.” He then stood there in anticipation of my response.

Although he hadn’t really asked a question and seemed more interested in provoking, I had to admit it wasn’t the first time I had heard the comment, and it deserved a thoughtful response.

Walt Disney World does have specific rules for its cast members that are non-negotiable such as never eating or drinking while on stage, picking up trash, focusing on interacting with guests rather than chatting with coworkers, etc. Violation of these rules will likely result in some kind of coaching, and continued violation can lead to being fired. They’re not guidelines; they’re rules.

But within those rules, cast members have plenty of room for creativity and for letting their own personalities shine through. I worked at Disney World for twenty years and can assure you that there were (and are) as many personalities as there are cast members. We were empowered to add our own personal touches to how we interacted with guests. The non-negotiable was to make every guest feel special. (Within reason, of course. Making a guest feel special by offering a sip from your hip flask would certainly not be the Disney way).

Having non-negotiables is good business. Every organization has a brand image; hopefully one that is by design and not be default. Behaviors out of alignment with that image damages it, and allowing such behaviors to continue can permanently damage the image.

I’m all for creativity and stretching the boundaries, but it has to be done intelligently, not simply out of a desire to “break the rules” and demonstrate individuality. Imagine going to see the play, “The Phantom of the Opera,” and the lead one evening decides to play the role as a comedian instead of as the Phantom. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t go over well with the audience, the other members of the cast, or the producers of the show. Even improv troupes, for all their creativity, have rules such as performing with a “yes, and,” approach, adding to the statements of fellow performers, not negating them, etc.

While I didn’t actually do it, I thought about asking the indignant professor about the classes he teaches. Does he have expectations for his students regarding assignments? Does he have expectations about how students are to behave in the classroom? Does he have criteria for what constitutes an A grade on an exam and what constitutes a C grade? I’m guessing the answer is yes to each of those questions, but I’m sure my professor friend would argue that none of those rules stifle creativity; they’re simply part of being a student in his classes. Ironic.

Great organizations are very clear on who they are and what the customer experience is supposed to be. Great organizations also make sure that they encourage employees to think and to be creative, while expecting  employees to use their creativity to enhance the brand image, not detract from it.

There is nothing wrong with having clear, non-negotiable expectations for employees. It’s simply good business.

Something to think about: Are your organization’s service non-negotiables truly non-negotiable, or are they more like “suggestions”?

Make the Most of a Customer Conflict

I’m not what you’d call a confrontational person. I don’t enjoy being involved in conflict, and I get uncomfortable when I see or hear others in conflict. I’m not sure why, it’s just the way I am.

But I also know that some of life’s best learnings can come as a result of conflict or disagreement. If the conflict ultimately raises our awareness and helps us (and others) to grow, while we might not like it at the time, some good has come out of the conflict.

Customers and Conflict

No organization is going to make every customer happy every time. Making every customer happy every time is a noble goal, but it’s not going to happen. Mistakes will be made, misunderstandings will occur, promises will be broken, and conflict will result.

I’ve written a few posts that relate to the topic of conflict, and how to handle it:

What to Do When Your Company Screws Up

When the Customer is Wrong

Diffuse First, Educate Second

Training employees on how to deal with conflict is vital. Effectively handling a frustrated customer’s problem can result in the customer feeling even more loyal to the organization.

Using Conflict to Become Better

All of this is great, but how can the organization become better because of the conflict? What can be learned, shared, improved so the likelihood of the problem happening again can be minimized or even eliminated? Or at a minimum, what can be learned about handling the problem when it does occur?

Here are a few approaches you can take to benefit from conflict:

  • As a regular part of team meetings, have at least one employee share a challenging situation he or she faced during the last week, and open it up for dialog about approaches to handling the problem. If appropriate for the situation, discuss process improvements that might help avoid the problem in the future.Do the same with management meetings. Encourage leaders to share challenging situations employees have experienced with customers – you’ll be amazed by the similarities of problems discussed. Use these discussions to identify organizational improvements.
  • Use your employee newsletter as well as other communication tools to discuss a conflict situation (perhaps generalizing it to protect those involved), and to offer suggestions for handling such situations as well as resources employees can access if they run into the same problem.
  • Create an intranet location where employees can discuss processes or procedures that frustrate customers. Leaders can review the forum for themes (and there will be themes) and use the information for process improvements, training opportunities, etc.

Since customer conflicts will happen no matter how good your organization is, why not put them to use? A good conflict is a terrible thing to waste. And it is wasted if nothing is learned or improved as a result of it.

Some customer conflicts, of course, will have no long-term solution or process improvement. Sometimes the only benefit is learning how to stay cool under pressure. But many conflicts or challenges can be an organization’s best friends when they result in long-term improvements to the customer experience.

Something to think about: Does your organization or department focus on turning conflict into improvement?