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How to wow customers

How to create more wow moments

Two surprisingly obvious ways to wow customers

Brian Ladyman | April 22, 2015

I was recently preparing to lead a workshop with one of our clients focusing on their customer journey—moments of truth, wow moments, brand-defining experiences, etc. To help get the juices flowing, I sent an email to about 100 people to collect some wow moments, small and large. The request was broad and unstructured: provide some examples of wow moments you’ve experienced.

We live in a digital world, so I expected a lot of people’s wow moments to include digital experiences. They did to some degree, but when I grouped the responses into themes, the two that surfaced have probably stood the test of time for decades—if not longer.

  1. Use my name
  2. Surprise me

We spend a lot of our days working with clients on big data, personalization, omnichannel experiences, and other initiatives that support the customer’s journey. And those things matter. But what seemed to have most made an impression on people was when companies used their name and they got a nice little surprise. Here’s an excerpt of some of the wow moments my colleagues shared.

Use my name

  • Restaurant: The night that I completed a half-marathon at Disney a couple of years ago, we had dinner reservations at Victoria & Albert’s. The menu had a special message at the top just for me congratulating me on finishing the half.
  • Hospitality: The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs does an amazing job with customer service. When you book a reservation, the front staff ensures that every person on staff that night knows your name; they even practice a few times during their morning meetings to get everything memorized. When you pull up for your day, everyone in the building refers to you by first name. When you leave your room to go to dinner, they quickly do a turndown on your bed and leave you a chocolate. When they know you’re coming for a romantic weekend, you get a bottle of champagne compliments of the staff, already in the room, sometimes with roses. They make your stay about your stay. It’s astonishing to me how they do it when they can accommodate nearly 1000 guests on any given day.
  • Retail: Warby Parker sent me a personalized video after I couldn't find the right glasses.
  • Airlines: On Alaska Air, every agent knows I am a 75K member and greets me by name and thanks me for my business—without exception. On the flight, they track me down regardless of where I’m sitting and thank me for my business and offer me a free cocktail. On the flight to Tucson with my kids, I was in the third to last row. The flight attendant came back, shook my hand, and gave each of my kids the candy the first-class fliers get. As a result, I go out of my way to only fly Alaska.
  • Service: My local dry cleaner greets me by name as I walk through the door every time I visit. I love it.

Surprise me

  • Automotive: During a walk through of a new car for my wife, they asked if she wanted to see the trunk. She said, “not really.” They encouraged her, so she looked. There were a dozen roses inside. She loved it and told the story over and over. That small surprise left a lasting impression with her about the Lexus brand.
  • Real estate: When we sold our house, our real estate agent had it cleaned for us as we moved out so we didn’t have to, and left a bottle of champagne in the kitchen on ice in our new house for our first night. Pretty solid.
  • Service: My local nail salon gave me a free service over New Year’s to thank me for my loyalty.
  • Bank: Our bank is near the new 49er stadium. They offer free parking and a free shuttle to the games.
  • Airlines: Alaska Airlines hosted a really small event and gave us access to top executives to talk one to one and share the things we would love to see to make their company better. I really appreciated that.
  • Restaurant: Once in a while Pagliacci Pizza delivers the pizza and tells us, “this one’s on us.” Because it’s so unexpected, it’s always makes us feel good about the company. The driver won’t even accept a tip.

Get some people in a room and think about how you might start using your customers’ names more. Think about services and experiences that would surprise them beyond the expected core of what you do. That’s what they’ll remember. That’s what they’ll tell their friends.

Brian Ladyman

Brian Ladyman is the managing director of Slalom’s Customer Engagement and Experience Design teams in Seattle. He has over 20 years of marketing and sales experience, including leadership roles at PeopleSoft, Oracle, A.T. Kearney, and McCann Worldgroup. Ladyman is all about trying to help Slalom’s clients really understand their customers (what’s going to wow them?), determine the right strategies based on that understanding, and figure out how to practically make it happen. Follow Ladyman on LinkedIn.


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