Apple’s news this week made some people excited whilst others were disappointed. Whichever “side” you were on, Apple’s challenge these days seems to be to not only meet, but exceed the extremely high expectations of their customers. Thanks to continuous innovation and their previous exciting launches, people have come to expect great things from them. This is why so many were somewhat disappointed with the “small” innovations announced this week.
This got my thinking about how we condition our customers to expect certain things from us, by the very nature of our actions, promotions and new product launches. This is why it is vital to always surpass these expectations whenever we can. It keeps our br and fresh in our customers’ eyes and renews their confidence in their choice of us.
Are you confident that you are constantly doing everything you can to surprise and delight your customers, to ensure you keep your competitive advantage? If you hesitate, read on; I have some ideas for you.
Last year, on one of my regular trips to the US, I stayed one night in a small lodge on Key Largo in Florida. If I hadn’t prepared my trip by checking out possible places to stay on Tripadvisor before I left, I wouldn’t have known about it, as it is hidden by greenery, even though it is on the main US 1 highway. I would highly recommend this lodge (Dove Creek Lodge) if you are in the area; not only does it offer great value for money, but they are very customer centric. They couldn’t do enough for me, even though I was only there for one night.
What touched me in particular, was the way they appeared to search for ways to surprise and delight their clients in everything they did; far beyond what you would expect, even from a star-rated hotel. For example, instead of plates of fruit, meats and vegetables for breakfast as is usual, they presented the same foods, but as sweet and savoury kebabs. Rather than serving a large bowl of yoghurt for everyone to dip into, they presented delicate glass cups filled with Greek yoghurt, fruit and granola, or graham biscuits with key lime cream. The whole stay was perfect but there is every chance that I will remember it longer than other places in which I have stayed, because I was surprised and delighted by that original breakfast presentation.
OK so you think that you have satisfied your customer when sending a replacement for a (perceived) faulty product? How about sending it express delivery, so they get it in record time? This will amplify your already good customer service and your customers will be delighted. Many companies add coupons as an extra, especially in the US, but those don’t delight or surprise any more.
You could offer samples of new products as well, but just make sure they are relvant to the customer- I recently received a “normal” version of a “hypo-allergenic” product I had returned due to an allergy! Clearly this was not personalized, so disappointed rather than delighted me.
Coffee Houses & Bakeries
Instead of the usual fillings of bakery items, how about adding “surprise” additions. For example, how about jam donuts with jam and cream cheese for an added, surprising delight – I actually had this at the Bagel Isl and, Big Pine Key and would love to go back again to try some of their other surprising offers.
I have also bought chocolates with very creative flavours, both savoury and sweet, that were given as samples with my brew in a coffee house. I was delighted to have found something original to present to my guests and they were surprised and delighted to have also discovered soemthing new. The chocolates certainly got my guests talking and enjoying the chanllenge of guessing the ingredients when they tasted and shared the chocolates!
Alamo and National, and maybe others I am not aware of, offer their customers the full choice of cars to rent within their reserved price range, rather than the company deciding which car they will give to each renter. This way, you feel that you have far more choice and are in control of your rental agreement, much more so than you do with other companies.
Recognition can also be shown to regular customers through a last-minute free upgrade, especially at busy times of the year when certain models are unavailable. People rarely complain if they are given a better service than they expected, but almost always when their exected desires are not met.
I have also received a small attention on leaving the parking of some rental companies – a bottle of water in summer, a CD of seasonal music at Christmas, Halloween c andies in October. It is not so much the small gift as the surprise that delights.
Many airlines are now offering premium economy service, where their clients are treated, at least on the ground, like a business traveler, rather than as an economy passenger. The first time this happens, it comes as a pleasant surprise and I can imagine will likely make their passengers more loyal to the service and perhaps also to the airline in the future, in the same way as complementary upgrades do / did.
Consumer Packaged Goods
Extra ingredients or novel packaging ideas that add sensorial experiences to the product, can bring memorable experiences even to commoditized products. For example, Nestlé brought out a cream desert that had a chocolate layer you cracked with your spoon; Herbal Essence shampoos had significant success with special perfumes; Pantene ProV with its unique pack colours and solid “clunking” lid closure; Bud Light Premium which sells in an unusual rich, blue bottle; scratch patches on air fresheners and laundry products. There are many ways to add additional surprising sensorial experiences to your offers, you just have to think like your target customer and know what would delight them.
Offering surprising and delighting extras is one way to make your customers remember your product or service, and almost guarantee repurchase and loyalty, since competitive products don’t have them. Surprising your customers makes an emotional bond that intensifies their experience, so they will remember not only your br and, but also the additional pleasure that is relived each time they think about it. Price also then becomes less of a factor of choice and enables you to weather the storm of a competitive environment and helps you getting involved in price-wars.
So what can you do differently, to surprise and delight your own customers? Think about what you or your category competitors normally do, but then do it in a slightly different way. Customers will be woken from their mindless, habitual behaviour, and will be made to sit up and take more notice of what you are offering.
As you saw from the above examples, these extras don’t need to cost a lot to be unexpected, they just need to be in some way related to your product so the link remains in the customer’s mind next time they go shopping.
What other ways have you found to surprise and delight your customers? Have you, yourself been delighted by a special touch you have found in a product or service? Please share your ideas below.
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This post has been adapted from one which first appeared on C³Centricity Dimensions on March 23rd 2012