When my friend Tina pulled up to the hotel, she felt like she had truly arrived. An attendant with a welcoming smile approached her and asked her name. Tina answered. “Ah yes,” the greeter replied. “We’ve been expecting you. Welcome to you too, Betty,” she added, nodding at Tina’s mother who was sitting in the passenger’s seat. The attendant escorted Tina and Betty to the check-in area. There, they received a decorative box. Inside, they found two personalized bracelets custom printed with their names, “Tina” and “Betty.” Wearing their new bangles, the two flit around the resort with their belongings safely in their room. These gifts granted them cash-free, hassle-free access to everything in the resort. They felt delighted.
Meanwhile, my colleague Jon walked into a not-at-all busy restaurant at a country club with a client. The hostess led Jon & guest past numerous empty booths and tables with a view, but deposited them instead at a small table near the bussing station. Jon respectfully asked the hostess about the better tables, but she informed him that the tables with views were reserved for regular patrons. The hostess did not recognize that Jon’s client was also a club member and regular patron.
Sadly, we’ve all stood in Jon’s shoes. And while I hope that most of us have had customer experiences that greatly impressed us, I suspect the disappointments outnumber the WOW moments. Importantly, neither experience happened by accident. In the case of the resort, Tina’s experience happened intentionally. The resort clearly took the time to craft each and every element of Tina’s stay, from initial greeting to final checkout. It took into account that Tina and Betty, like all of us, are emotional human beings. In contrast, Jon and his client’s experience happened by default. Whether he had a good experience or a poor one that day was entirely dumb luck. No one created a plan to deliver him ‘special.’
Because we’re deep into the planning of our 8th client symposium, this year named Customer Connection, I’ve been asking many people about their best and worst customer experiences. We can glean important information from the people around us—family members, colleagues, friends and even strangers. (Much to my kids’ dismay, I’ve struck up market research conversations in dressing rooms, wireless stores, and even with the cable guy. I learn a lot!)
After years of thinking about brands, customers, communications and experiences, my key takeaway is that companies that intentionally craft empathetic experiences that authentically and naturally extend from their brand generate warm feelings, happy memories, and an attitude of loyalty. Desired behaviors like positive word of mouth follow. For example, Tina spent more money than she planned to during that trip, but was so delighted with her experience that she still hasn’t stopped talking about it.
Another example came today. Facebook celebrated its 10th anniversary by gifting its consumers with a personalized movie (https://www.facebook.com/lookback). My “friends” didn’t just LIKE it, they loved it. Clearly, Mark Zuckerberg caught an earlier draft of this blog, and used the information to craft this personalized experience, designed with the express intention to delight. We don’t mind. Actually, we think it worked out pretty well. Happy Birthday, Facebook.
– Co-authored with Joan Cassidy