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. On a flight back from a conference, my suitcase was broken. The airline 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 the airline for that voucher. I didn’t expect, or ask for, much.
To my delight and surprise, with just one call, a very capable representative got me a voucher good for another flight, more than I had asked for. Now, I don’t have elite status with the airline or a Delta credit card, but I got outstanding treatment. So, surprised and delighted by my experience, 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 and CTOs, but I’d never heard of a “CXO” before the Qualtrics X4 conference, where 7,000 customer (and employee) experience executives had gathered.
Qualtrics, an “experience management” software company, even had something new (to me at least) at its conference: a "Dream Team" to enhance attendees' experiences. The idea is, you submit a request for something simple — or not so simple — that you want out of the conference, and the Dream Team goes to work on your behalf.
“Every once in a while, someone asks for something crazy,” Qualtrics' Troy Jennings says. “That’s where the ... Dream Team started."
Four years ago, an attendee asked for help buying 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” Jennings said.
Conference hosts called him up on stage and said Qualtrics would buy the engagement ring. And if she said yes — which she did — the honeymoon was on the company's tab as well.
Another time, “A woman who was seven-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.”
One attendee came to the Salt Lake City conference just to say he had visited Utah, part of his plan to visit all 50 states. So the Dream Team engineered a longer stay for him and his family — a full-fledged summer vacation for all. And the Dream Team purchased and delivered a new iPhone for a woman whose own smartphone broke during the conference.
Of course, not all Dream Team requests, especially the more exotic ones, can be fulfilled, but you get the idea. And some people are happy just getting a water bottle.
“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," Jennings said. "At its core, that is what the Dream Team is about.”
The attendees' "simply knowing that we care about them is probably the most important part,” Jennings said.
That’s what “surprising and delighting” customers is all about — letting them know you care.
Rhonda Abrams is the author of Six-Week Start Up, just released in its fourth edition. Connect with her on Facebook, and Twitter through the handle @RhondaAbrams. Register for her free business tips newsletter at PlanningShop.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.