I’d wager that if prompted you could easily think of at least one juicy story about a “wow” experience you had with a business you patron. I’d also bet you told at least six of your friends or colleagues the story. Those friends told six friends, and their friends told six more. Now, that’s money. It’s the free marketing every small business dreams of. So what does it take to create that “wow” customer experience that instantly creates evangelists gabbing it up in their social circle?
Use these tips to build unique and memorable customer value at every turn:
1. Decide who you want to be, and build it.
Consistent (and profitable) wow customer experiences don’t just happen. They have to be built from the inside out. Think about the Seattle Pike Place Fish Market. They sat around a table one day, sipping perhaps the first lattes ever made and decided they wanted to be “world famous.” They didn’t say “I dream of selling a gazillion fish.”
They didn’t immediately land on wanting to make a gazillion dollars. No, they wanted to be “world famous.” So what did that mean? It meant that every single person needed to show up to work each day with an intention to give every single customer an experience that deserved the title. Selling fish was secondary. Playing, interacting with customers in a memorable way—this was always the top priority.
Have you and your colleagues decided what you want your business or nonprofit “to be”? If not, decide. What is your big, hairy, audacious goal (as Jim Collins’ describes it)—that vision and wow experience you strive for? Identify it. And then figure out how to build that experience from the inside out.
2. Yes, I said “Build It.”
A wow customer experience comes in so many shapes, forms and textures, but each has one thing in common—each involves anticipating a customer’s need before they communicate it. And that involves knowing who your customers are, knowing what they value, how they define “wow.”
Building that experience also requires an organizational structure that empowers front line staff to make decisions and take action to deliver that wow experience without a hiccup.
Consider your own organizational structure. Are your front line staff—those who interact with customers and constituents directly—constrained by regulations and protocol so much that it’s impossible to deliver a “wow” customer experience? What would it mean to shift that protocol enough to retain the good intention, while empowering staff to step outside the rulebook on occasion?
Further, have you given frontline staff the opportunity to know your target customers like you do? Are they on board with your vision of “wow,” and do they have what they need to deliver it? Or, would your pitch hit them as “just another thing we have to do”?
Yeah, it’s simple, but it works. Think about your “worst service ever” story, which you likely told to 20 of your friends, who then told 20 more.
I would wager that 95 percent or more of these experiences could have been transformed by simply taking a pause and listening and empathizing with the customer.
Think about your own interactions with customers and constituents—or those of your front line staff. How prepared are you to listen, empathize and hear the needs behind what the customer is saying or doing? What could training in this area do to improve your ability to create a wow customer experience every time?
Better yet, build an ongoing forum that empowers front line staff to share and tackle the most common customer challenges or complaints with actionable recommendations.
4. Deliver surprises.
Everyone likes surprises, right? Surprises are the ultimate depiction of the concept, “under-sell and over-deliver.” Wow customer experiences are not about receiving what you paid for. What you paid for is the bare minimum.
When I go to my favorite restaurant, I expect an amazing meal, excellent service, great local wine, and an atmosphere that mellows me as soon as I walk in the door. What makes a meal there “wow,” might be that unexpected dish that’s on the specials menu, or the perfect wine recommendation from my waiter. That surprise I didn’t anticipate.
How can you deliver surprises to your customers? And equally important, how can you manifest an organizational culture that continually sets the bar higher and higher to continue to achieve wow surprises for your customers?
As I said, wow customer experiences come in many shapes and sizes, of course depending on the type of business or nonprofit you run, your customers, and their unique needs. These four tips are a great start toward building a culture from the inside out that makes exceptional service and customer experiences not only a top priority, but also a practical reality.
© Numa Communications, LLC
Gordon Conner is a Branding Consultant/Coach and Copywriter who helps build WOW brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing, branding and copywriting services for 39 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. He can be reached at Gordon@BranWorks.com, or www.BranWorks.com.