Business has changed profoundly in the last several decades as new digital and cloud technologies are reshaping our everyday business processes. At the same time, however, it looks like the fundamentals of business have not changed a bit; the purpose of business is still to “create and keep a customer,” as Peter Drucker famously put it.
Creating and keeping a customer has become more difficult, though. The customers are now more empowered, have more information and options from the competition, are better connected and are more influential because they can now instantly share their satisfaction or frustration with just a few mouse clicks. Companies need to go the extra mile and provide their customers with the extraordinary “wow” experience if they want to keep and expand their customer base.
Today’s most profitable companies have managed to master the art of the wow factor. What can we learn from those companies? How do they create wow? Here are five practical ways that will hopefully inspire you to “TREAT” your customers with the wow experience and build wow factor into your organization’s culture.
1. Turn complaints into opportunities
Make every effort to immediately address any concerns or complaints that your customers might have. Respond sooner than they expected. Follow up on all complaints, learn from the issues and improve your process faster than the competition. Then, try to prevent similar problems in the future. This strategy might cost you money, but it will keep your customers loyal and even turn your problems into a nice word-of-mouth opportunity.
2. Random acts of kindness
Many companies have now adopted programs and budgets designed to surprise and delight their customers by doing some random acts of kindness. Jill Lublin, author of The Profit of Kindness, claims that “kindness is the new currency” of the marketplace, and it leads to customer and employee loyalty, increased revenue, cost savings and profit.
An example? I visited Dairy Queen this summer, and as I was placing my drive-through order, a representative noticed that I had a puppy in my car. To my delight, he handed me a treat for my dog. My pet loved it. So did I, because I would otherwise have to fight for my own ice cream with my puppy. Well done!
3. Exceed expectations: more, better, faster
Psychologists define frustration as a negative gap between expectations and reality. In my view, wow is the direct opposite from frustration; wow is a positive difference between what you get and what you expect.
When we get more than we expected we become surprised and delighted. The more we receive over our expectations, the more delighted we get. Wow factor is achieved when we get better than expected quality or faster than expected service. The key is to manage expectations, then surprise and delight by going above and beyond those expectations. More, better, faster. Wow.
4. Act unexpectedly
Don’t just go beyond expectations. Do something unexpected. This is probably the most powerful strategy.
I was doing a TEDx speech a few years ago, and the organizers sent me a text message right before my arrival asking me, to my surprise, what kind of coffee I like. They said they wanted to make sure my favourite coffee is hot and ready as soon as I arrive. Totally unexpected. Wow!
The other day I was going to meet a friend in Starbucks. Unfortunately, the Starbucks closed a few minutes before I arrived. Doors closed. Dark. Rain. A Starbucks rep saw my very disappointed face, opened the door, apologized and handed me a $5 coupon for my next visit to Starbucks. She did the unexpected. I was much happier. Wow.
5. Thank your customers
“Thank you” is probably one of the most powerful phrases in our vocabulary. We need to use it more often. Thank your customers for trying your services. Thank them for being loyal. Thank them for being patient. Give them a complimentary product or service. Thank them with a gift of true value, not just another marketing offer. Your customers will be grateful, and they will come again. So will their friends. Thank them as well!
Use this TREAT acronym to create wow experience for your customers. They will be surprised and delighted. And you will keep building your business. •
Ivan Surjanovic (firstname.lastname@example.org) is CEO of iPower Strategy and an educator and consultant specializing in business strategy in the digital age.