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PORTER: Try providing a surprise to refresh your customer service

An unexpected free meal at your favorite restaurant. A new piece of luggage sent to you by your favorite upstart airline. Free tickets delivered to your hotel room for a local sold-out event.

These are all real-life examples today. What do they all have in common? The element of surprise.

Providing a surprise to customer service these days is a way companies can enhance their customer experience and make it more memorable. And if you are like me, a surprise experience tends to stick with you over time — and it can give companies a competitive advantage in today’s crowded marketplace.

Think about it: What might you do to surprise your customers today?

 

Know what customers expect from you

In our opening statement above, for example, we offer the unexpected free meal at our favorite bistro. Skipping past the usual weekly special or familiar online coupon, the customer is presented with a situation they in no way expect. Thus, the big — and total — surprise.

Look at your business today and talk to your customers. What do they always remember about you and your services? How do they most always see and use your products? You might be surprised at what you hear, but you at least will have a baseline of what customers always expect.

 

Regularly give customers the unexpected

The key here is to make sure the customer does not expect what is coming. And the surprise is that difference between what they think they are going to get minus what they do not yet know.

A related term here is suspense. And if companies are regularly refreshing their brand with surprises, there is always that tension produced by suspense.

Another good example of the unexpected is the free luggage from your airline cited earlier and delivered by Amazon. With seat size shrinking and charges for every little thing, who would expect an airline to give you luggage to reward your continuing business with them?

I know I wouldn’t.

And free tickets to the National Invitational Tournament in my room from a hotel where I stay occasionally? No way would I expect it. Yet it happens.

To summarize, when you regularly look at providing better customer value every year, think about surprise.

And when you are considering a more memorable experience for your customers, examine a customer surprise.

Most importantly, find out first what customers usually expect from you and then transcend those expectations with a memorable surprise!

 

William Porter has published books on customer experience and employee engagement and speaks regularly at business schools. Contact him at bpwilliamaporter@gmail.com.

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