We all like to say our customers deserve the best. We sometimes brag about how we exceed our customers’ expectations. But, what story would your customers tell if one time…maybe several times…you took them where they had never been before? What if you delivered an experience that was totally out of this world…at least, out of your customers’ worlds?
Thelma and Louise was a melodramatic movie with a strong story, great acting (it introduced Brad Pitt) and a completely unexpected ending. I will not be a spoiler. But, in one scene when Thelma and Louse (played by Jenna Davis and Susan Sarandon) were driving at sunset across the New Mexico desert, a song entitled “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” by Shel Silverstein played in the background. Imagine that these words reflect your customers’ hopes and desires.
At the age of thirty-seven, she realized she’d never
Drive through Paris in a sports car, with the warm wind in her hair.
So, she let the phone keep ringing, as she sat there quietly singing
Little nursery rhymes she memorized in her daddy’s easy chair.
The song captured the unrealized dreams of an “everyday housewife.” It matched the movie story perfectly. What was missing in the song, the movie, and too often customers’ experiences is a sense of adventure. Almost all customers enjoy the feel of a “treasure-hunting” surprise. Life can be boring and routine; then, along comes an experience out of the blue that takes their breath away, leaving them with a “song” they are eager to “sing” to anyone who will listen. What feature characterizes these “out-of-the-world” experiences?
Take Their Breath Away Service is Simple
When Don Roark, now retired, was the director of customer relations with First Bank & Trust in Lubbock, Texas, he was at the regional fair wearing a logoed shirt. A woman saw his First Bank shirt and asked him if there was an ATM nearby. Don informed her there was not. “Oh, gosh,” said the woman, “All I wanted was a couple of corn dogs.” Reaching in his pocket, Don gave her a $20 bill and a business card! “Have a corn dog on First Bank,” he said. “Sorry we don’t have a First Bank ATM nearby.” You can guess how this story ended. The woman not only told all her friends, she returned Don’s $20 bill the next day, telling him how thrilled she was to be a customer of a bank that engages in random acts of innovative service.
Take Their Breath Away Service is Generous
Allowances where not something my dad believed taught his kids a work ethic. So, I worked for all my spending money. Living in a rural area the only paying chores for kids were baby-sitting and lawn mowing. My sister baby-sat; I mowed yards. I got a dollar for a regular-sized yard and two dollars for a large yard; my grandmother had a two-dollar yard! One summer we had a drought. Yards did not grow much so I was looking at pretty bleak school year in terms of spending money. Towards the end of that summer, my grandmother called and wanted me to come mow her yard. I was thrilled! As always, I mowed her yard and met her on her back porch to get my two dollars. But, I got a big surprise. She handed me five-dollar bill and said the most wonderful words… ”Keep the change!” And, it did change my relationship with my grandmother. A relationship I kept until she died in her mid-eighties.
Take Their Breath Away Service is Unexpected
Nicholson-Hardie is a garden center store in Dallas, Texas. The well-lit store in a convenient shopping area has always been well stocked with a wide variety of green plants, garden hoses, clay pots and sorts—just like their competitors. And, like most garden center stores with indoors and outdoors almost connected, there was potential for mice to find their way into the garden seed and fertilizer stock. The center became the talk of the town when they added two big calico cats that hunted mice at night and took turns sleeping on the checkout counter during the day. Cleverly named Frank Cat and Sammy Cat, their owners even provided the cats with business cards (in a card holder on the counter) with their job titles—The Rat Pack!
Let your customers “drive through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in their hair.” Find new, adventurous ways to take their breath away. It works best is such treasure-hunting acts are simple, appropriate, but totally unexpected. And, starts with you, and your next customer!
Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and best-selling author. His newest book is Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles. He can be reached at www.chipbell.com.