The Key to WOWING Your Customers and Clients

One of the interesting correlations on the recent reader survey I conducted was between questions two and three. Question #2 was, “Which of the following issues are problems that you’re wrestling with in your business or organization?” and Question #3 was, “What topics would you like me to write more about?”

I say interesting because one of the lowest vote getters for question #2 was, “Retaining customers.” While one of the top vote getters for question #3 was, “How to WOW my customers and clients for increased retention and referrals.” You have to love surveys!!!

Okay, so the question is, “How can I do a better job at WOWING my customers (or clients)?” And the answer to that question can be found in one of my favorite movies of all time, Finding Forrester.

If you haven’t watched it, Finding Forrester is about a reclusive writer played by Sean Connery who lives in the inner city. Through a unique “meet-greet” Sean’s older white character begins to mentor a younger black man, Jamal (played brilliantly by Rob Brown in his first role) who has a talent for writing.

As the movie unfolds, Jamal begins to fall in love with another student, a white girl name Claire, at a very prestigious high school (yes, there are all kinds of themes and sub themes in this movie). Jamal wants to get Claire a gift and isn’t sure what to get her, when Forrester offers Jamal some of the best dating (and business) advice of all time. He simply says,

The key to a woman’s heart is an unexpected gift at an unexpected time.

I wish I had written that line. It’s brilliant. And it’s dead on. If you’re trying to wow someone, doing what’s expected isn’t much of a wow. A guy taking a girl out for dinner and a movie isn’t a wow. It might be a nice enjoyable date, but it’s certainly not a wow—and it’ll probably be forgotten within a few days or weeks.

That same thing holds true for every business encounter. Think about it. When you go to a business and you buy something, you have expectations about that product (or service) and how the company will fulfill your order. If ALL THEY DO is simply fulfill their promise, they’re forgettable, right?

If you go to a nice restaurant and have a nice meal, guess what? You won’t remember it the following week. If you go to a nice hotel and you have a nice experience, guess what? You won’t remember it a week or two later. If you go to a conference or trade show and it was well executed, guess what? You won’t remember it a week or two later.

I hope you caught that. If all you and your business do is fulfill what you said you’d do, your business is just like all those other businesses we just talked about—you’re forgettable.

However, whenever you’ve encountered a business and they’ve done something unexpected what did you do? Exactly! You tell other people about it and you remember it.

A few years ago, I went to a church conference in Dallas and when I checked into my room I was greeted by the following gift basket full of goodies. Now, occasionally when I speak at a conference the organizers, like Filebound, will have a gift basket for me (thank you Mark and Rex). But this conference in Dallas was the only time I’ve ever received a gift basket for attending a conference! It was totally unexpected—and I’m still talking about it eight years later.

Earlier this year my wife and I decided to replace our kitchen countertops and decided our top option was a business called, Counter Intelligence (I love that name). On a Monday afternoon, we walked in and our sales associate immediately informed us of some good news, “Hey, it’s Monday and we have a special Monday discount of 5% off the price I quoted you the other day.” Unexpected (even if it might be a system they use every day, it worked for us as we already had quotes from their competitors!).

As we discussed options with our sales associate, he did the “and we’ll throw in an upgraded …” (again, didn’t matter if they do that all the time, the competitor’s quotes didn’t). Then he said, “Why don’t we go pick out your slab.” I didn’t anticipate that (so we actually got to pick out the slab that would be in our kitchen).

Then, as he was writing up the order he said, “I’m sorry we’re really busy this week, but would Thursday morning work for the two of you?” Now, maybe you’ve had different experiences with contractors, but I can’t ever remember someone turning around a project like this in three days. It was all unexpected and therefore memorable.

A few years back my wife and I decided to celebrate our anniversary at a nice restaurant about a half hour away from our home called Colvin Run Tavern (unfortunately now out of business due to a lease issue). However we’ve never forgotten that meal for a couple of reasons. One, when we were seated, we were greeted by our own personalized menus (“Bruce and Jacquie, Your Anniversary Dinner” printed on them). Unexpected.

Two, for my appetizer I had a crab bisque with an english pea agnolotti in it that may have been the single best bite of food I had ever had in my life up to that point (this was in the first stages of my foodie life). Totally unexpected. Third, the dessert was the first Apple Tarte Tartin I had ever eaten (who can forget their first?). And then, as we were finishing up dinner, they brought out a little basket full of muffins and two mugs for us to take home so we could have a nice breakfast the next morning and remember our dinner at the Colvin Run Tavern. Again, totally unexpected.

So what’s the key to wowing a customer? It’s pretty simple.

An unexpected gift at an unexpected time.

As you look at your business or organization, how can you do this? What would be unexpected?  If you’re struggling with that question, start by listing out everything you think your customers/clients expect from you. Everything on that list, you have to do. However, none of that makes you memorable.

If you want to WOW them, you have to do something unexpected. Even better, at an unexpected time. So, once you’ve cleared your mind of what you and your competitors do, keep asking, “What would be completely unexpected? What would take someone’s breathe away? What would cause them to want to remark to someone else, ‘You won’t believe what just happened to me?’”

No matter how great you are at fulfilling what you promise, it’ll never be enough if you want to WOW. You have to move to unexpected!

To your accelerated success!

P.S. If you have some other stories of being wowed by a business or organization, take a moment to share your story below in the comments section (Note: If you’re reading this by email or RSS, click here to share your story)