The Secret To Exceeding Customer Expectations

While doing research on exceeding customer expectations, we came across a common recurring phrase:

Surprise and Delight Customers

As Inc. points out, customer satisfaction is what most companies strive for. But “…satisfaction is the bare minimum of what a customer should get in their experience.”

While you may be really good at delivering competitively-priced products and services in a timely and proficient manner, it doesn’t mean the customer’s experience will be a meaningful or memorable one.

According to a social marketing customer service infographic from Louis Foong’s Leadership site:

“In today’s business climate customers expect more from companies. The business value and risks are real. It is no longer about how fast a business can respond to a customer BUT HOW WELL”

So, how well is your company doing at providing mind-blowing customer service that leaves a lasting impression?

Here are some easy ways to take your customer service to the “WOW” level:

Surprise Your Customers With Gifts or Freebies

The tiniest gift can coax a smile or nod of appreciation from your customers, whether it’s a pen, a car freshener, a tin of breath mints, or a $5.00 off coupon they can use on your goods and services. It really doesn’t take much of an offering to leave a lasting impression.

For example, one woman who visited her favorite hotel was “surprised and delighted with a gift of mimosas by the pool.” While the gesture didn’t require much time, effort, or money, it did create a “wow” experience that “got her talking, sharing, and promoting their brand.

Bestowing your customers with small tokens that are “desirable, entertaining and tasteful.” is a simple and cost-effective way to infuse the customer experience with unexpected delight.

Send a Handwritten Thank You Note

You’ve probably heard it said that the handwritten note has become a lost art. And, in fact, most companies communicate with customers using technological means such as email, texting, voicemail and social media because, hey, it takes less time, right?

Sending a handwritten note to your customers can make a significant impact in a world where electronic communication reigns supreme. Think about it. When was the last time you received a handwritten note or card from a business associate, acquaintance, or friend? How did it make you feel?

Perks and promos, like a pen/pencil set with your company logo or a key chain, are a nice enough way to improve the customer experience, but there’s really nothing like a handwritten note to make your customers feel extra special. Creating personalized customer experiences heighten’s the “surprise and delight” quotient.

Get to Know Customer Culture & Invite Them Into Yours 

“Don’t just make assumptions about who your customers are,” says Inc. Create opportunities for your customers to share information with you, then use that information to engage them further by acknowledging the personal details they’ve shared. For instance, if you asked their preference in entertainment, send them a link to a song or funny video. If they tell you they love coffee, send them a sampler of a popular local coffee brand.

Additionally, you should familiarize yourself with the area where your company is based and show interest in the local culture. “Find the common ground that helps you relate as people,” Inc. suggests. Make what you do more about people than commerce and you’ll find that consumers will connect with you and stay on as loyal customers.

But don’t stop there. Help customers get to know your company culture, too. You can accomplish this with three of Inc’s tips:

  • providing customers opportunities/occastions to interact with your staff members in person
  • giving customers a “behind the scenes”  look at your products or services
  • sharing stories with your customers (i.e.compelling secrets or interesting facts about your business)

When your customers spread their positive experiences with your brand to family and friends, show your appreciation by rewarding them with movie tickets, coupons, a gift card to the local coffee shop, or a handwritten thank you note.

Taking a vested interest in customer culture and involving them in yours goes hand in hand with one of Zig Ziglar’s iconic quotes:

“You don’t build a business, you build people; and then people build the business.”

Demonstrate Loyalty by Respecting Customer Boundaries

While many companies flourish by acquiring data from their customers, they typically don’t move beyond establishing—or meeting— the minimum legal protection policies.

Don’t be one of those companies. “Make the customer the focus of your privacy policies,” advises Inc.

Provide your customers with the means to “opt out” and remain private. If a customer requests to be removed from one of your lists, comply immediately.

When you give your customers the power to control how their information will—or will not—be shared, you demonstrate your loyalty for their privacy concerns and let them know that they’re more important than their data.

Don’t Forget the Little Things

“Sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference between a business that is successful and one that is not,” states the folks over at You Inc. Customers reciprocate with appreciation and generosity for even the tiniest gestures of kindness.

Here’s how L.L. Bean’s CEO and president, Chris McCormick, describes paying attention to the “small” details of customer service:

“A lot of people have fancy things to say about customer service, but it’s just a day-in, day-out, ongoing, never-ending, persevering, compassionate kind of activity.” ~ NRF

Sometimes your perception of what constitutes a small detail is completely different from your customers,” points out You Inc. Consider restaurants that offer coloring sheets and crayons to customers with children. While restaurant employees may give little thought to such a mundane gesture, the difference it makes to mothers struggling to entertain active toddlers may be momentous.

As a general rule, when it comes to minding the small stuff, try following this little nugget of wisdom from You Inc, “Don’t presume to know what is irrelevant to your customer; do everything well and you’re sure to make them happy,”


Surprise and delight will take your customer service to the next level and capture the attention of people who notice—and talk about— the small stuff, suggests an article on Business Collective.

Convene, a company that provides conference spaces for meetings and events that include award-winning cuisine and the latest technologies, discovered that:

“What really wows clients isn’t the stellar locations or high-quality conference rooms. What impresses them, despite paying to be in these centers, are the details: a genuine greeting, the mouthwash and lint rollers in the bathroom, or the shawls provided for anyone who gets cold during meetings.” ~ Business Collective

What surprise and delight really boil down to is this…go beyond the normal standard of customer satisfaction to stun them with the unexpected!

Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.

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