In today’s world, a small business needs to stand out. To survive, you need loyal, even fanatic, customers. It’s tough to compete on price, or even convenience, so what’s going to make a difference? Delight and surprise your customers.
Customers today spread the word about businesses. When they’re unhappy, they quickly blast you on social media. Unfortunately, the opposite isn’t always true. A simply satisfied customer is unlikely to make comments. When you surprise and delight customers, they’re likely to become your biggest fans and help make even one small action to go viral.
Take, for instance, my recent experience with Delta Airlines. On a flight back from a conference, my suitcase was broken. Delta offered to send my bag off to be fixed, reimburse me if I got it fixed, or give me a small voucher. I decided to get my bag fixed locally. The repair shop couldn’t fix it, so I called Delta for that voucher. I didn’t expect, or ask for, much.
To my delight and surprise, with just one call, a very capable Delta representative got me a voucher good for another Delta flight, more than I had asked for. Now, I don’t have elite status on Delta or a Delta credit card, but I got outstanding treatment. Delta’s now become my airline of choice. Surprised and delighted, I’ve spread the word.
Now, it just so happened that the conference I was returning from on that flight was all about creating exceptional experiences. Not just for customers but for employees as well.
There’s a new term in the business world: CXO, or Chief Experience Officer. Companies have CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, but I’d never heard of a “CXO” before the Qualtrics X4 conference, where 7000 customer (and employee) experience executives had gathered. Qualtrics is an “experience management” software company.
And I’d never been to a conference that had a “Dream Team.”
“Every year before the event, we reach out to those who have registered and ask some questions,” said Troy Jennings, Sales Manager and Dream Team co-lead. “One of those questions is: ‘What can we do to make your experience unforgettable?’”
“Past experience and using our own technology has helped us predict many of the requests… Qualtrics’ swag, water bottles, coffee, pens, phone chargers, etc. Our Dream Team room was stocked floor to ceiling with snacks and drinks.”
“Every once in a while, someone asks for something crazy,” says Jennings. “That’s where the … Dream Team started. Four years ago, one of our customers asked for help purchasing an engagement ring. He was joking and asked with no expectation that we would help him buy one, but reading his request gave us the idea.” They called him up on stage and said they’d buy the engagement ring. If she said yes, they’d pay for the honeymoon. Now his wife is pregnant, and they’ve had someone design and build their nursery.
“A woman who was 7 months pregnant with twins simply asked for comfortable seating during the conference. We brought her a recliner, a nice blanket, slippers, and got her a spa package.”
Of course, some Dream Team requests don’t get fulfilled. But the Dream Team surprises some attendees even with outlandish wishes, such as providing a summer vacation in Utah for the family of one attendee. His family has the goal of visiting all 50 states and only he came to Utah for the conference. And the Dream Team purchased and delivered a new iPhone for a woman whose own broke during the conference.
“One of the things we preach as a company is that you create great experiences for your customers and employees by listening to them and then acting quickly and appropriately on the information you receive. At its core, that is what the Dream Team is about.”
“We have people every bit as excited about getting a water bottle as they are about getting a new pair of shoes or having the opportunity to meet one of their heroes… People see the Dream Team as an indication that we care, that we are genuinely focused on doing whatever we can to help them have a great experience. So the water bottle is nice, but simply knowing that we care about them is probably the most important part.”
That’s what “surprising and delighting” customers is all about—letting them know you care.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2018
This article originally ran in USA Today on May 16, 2018