Surprise and delight customers and employees to build enthusiasm for your business.

When was the last time you had a positive service experience worth talking about? It might surprise the Wright Brothers to learn that my most recent memorable moment was not the miracle of flight, but that an airline employee lets me pre-board with my toddler and gave us a full bottle of water instead of a cup. The extra attention and human touch made my day.

These gestures — the ones that are never expected but always welcome — humanise mundane service experience and are what we walk away talking about. Delivering personalised services goes a long way, especially with millennial buyers who are quick to publically evangelise or shame brands. Businesses that can figure out how to motivate their teams to go above and beyond in delivering great service will find exponential returns in every notch above the status quo.

Understanding The Value of Surprise And Delight

There are dozens of moving parts to keep your business running smoothly and securely. But customers rarely see these moving parts (nor should they). What customers see is what they expect to see: the end result of what they paid for.

For the provider, it’s a job well done. For the consumer, that only means that the business fulfilled its end of the bargain — hardly something to get excited about.

At Convene, however, we’ve found that what really wows clients isn’t the stellar locations or high-quality conference rooms. What impresses them, despite paying to be in these centres, are the details: a genuine greeting, the mouthwash and lint rollers in the bathroom, or the shawls provided for anyone who gets cold during meetings.

“Surprise and delight” not only delivers that extra level of service, but it also targets the people who notice (and talk about) the small stuff. By pushing a surprise-and-delight strategy, you can turn your biggest potential detractors into your most vocal supporters.

But the value of surprise and delight doesn’t end with the customer. It also provides employees something tangible that they can be proud of. Human connections are a two-way street. Now, more than ever, people look for purpose and context in their work, rather than just paychecks. Surprise and delight create stories that are more than simple numbers.

But how can you take advantage of a system that creates positive outcomes for customers, employees, and ultimately your entire business?

Implementing A New Strategy Into Your Business

While it seems easy to add in touches to accomplish “surprise and delight,” this strategy is about more than actions — it’s about creating a culture where the extra mile is always the goal.

Here are three steps to get your company there:

  1. Create a playbook. You need a framework that defines what “surprise and delight” mean for your stakeholders and customers. To do this, we break down our stakeholders into the most granular details possible and map out their product or service experiences through the customer life cycle. As you go through your stakeholder mapping process, get emotional — understand what their fears and aspirations are and craft an experience around the five senses. What this playbook should ultimately do is decode the emotional opportunities of your customers so you can seize them.
  2. Contextualise it. Once the framework is set up, the company culture needs to follow suit. All communications from the company should be contextualised around creating meaningful, high-touch customer experiences, and the results of these efforts should be measured and celebrated. For us, this means sending handwritten thank-you notes to employees who exemplify “surprise and delight.” As we go above and beyond in managing our employees, they see not only that their work is appreciated, but they also see a demonstration of what “surprise and delight” actually is. That way, this form of customer service becomes second nature instead of a single memo that is quickly forgotten.
  3. Create a feedback loop. Along with management buy-in, employees need to recognise “surprise and delight” on a day-to-day basis. During meetings, we have each person call out the last stellar service moment he or she observed and who performed it. As a result, these stories get told, remembered and reinforced. And leaders should personally congratulate those who employ the practice regularly: This creates a rhythm of recognition, and it becomes part of the daily dialogue. Your workforce will feel fulfilled and acknowledged, and your customer base will be more than satisfied.

Loyalty is won by going above and beyond — not only by meeting service needs but also by exceeding them. People expect to get good service — that’s not where the accolades are won.

The key is to give people service they will talk about. Take the time to do little things that people will find remarkable, and you will both surprise and delight them every single time.


About The Author

[Christopher Kelly– co-founder of Convene, a company that combines service and design to improve the workplace experience.] 

In partnership with Citi, the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship programme that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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