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Surprise and Delight

Everybody likes surprises, right?

Well I certainly do, and I want to share with you how a thoughtful gesture on my birthday made all the difference.

Mostly, Guests are hoping that interactions will be quick, effortless, and meet their basic needs.

It is, however, wonderful when businesses can go above and beyond.

Today’s consumer is both simple and complex. They value the simple things such as speed of service and basic execution, but they also love the personal touch. They can be wooed by businesses that not only find ways to deliver on every day excellence, but also find ways to pepper in surprise and delight.

This became very evident to me when I went out for an early birthday dinner just a few days ago. I had booked a reservation at a restaurant that sounded wonderful online and had a fabulous reputation for good food and great service.

The wow started online when I booked my table through an online reservation app and was prompted to declare if I was celebrating any special occasions. I noted with pride that it was my birthday and confirmed the reservation without giving it a second thought.

Now I would’ve been happy to have arrived, been seated promptly, and served a well seasoned steak with a delicious sauce.

But what made me smile and feel extremely special was the birthday card that my server handed me as I sat down. This was a fairly unremarkable birthday card signed by members of the team and was probably signed in bulk during a staff meeting.

But none of that mattered.

What mattered to me was the care and thoughtfulness it took to make sure that they had cards available, that they remembered it was my birthday, and that they took the time to present it with a smile and a sincere “enjoy your birthday dinner.”

This ties back to the most important part of surprise and delight – It doesn’t have to be complicated.

In fact simple things such as remembering someone’s name, that it’s their birthday, or how they take their coffee can show attention to detail and a personalized touch that can absolutely make a Guest’s day.

When you seek to deliver a little WOW for your Customers, remember that the best gestures are sincere and come from the heart.

These gestures make Customers think “you get me.” This is important because it can build emotional connections that lead to loyalty.

Some of these types of things can be scripted.  Think about the birthday card I received.  Someone had to order cards, make sure they were signed, and put a process in place to make sure they were handed out.  My local bank hands out dog biscuits at the drive through window, which takes a very similar plan.  To a Guest these may seem like little pieces of magic, but they are executed as a part of a well thought out plan.

The coffee shop that gives a Guest a free coffee because they come in soaked from a rain storm and look to need a little care.  The server who loans his phone charger to a business traveler who can’t find hers.  The valet who puts a fresh bottle of water in a Customer’s car because she noticed there was an empty bottle there when the car was parked.

These are all examples of unscripted wows.

These are a little stickier to inspire, but still very possible and extremely impactful.

The trick here is to make sure your teams know they are empowered – and responsible – for bringing a little wow into their Guest’s days.

You have to treat your staff well, give them examples of wow service, and then trust them.  You can do this by sharing stories of excellence from around your organization in a way that brings these interactions to life.  Celebrate everyday excellence and the big WOWs so that everyone can understand what makes up these moments of surprise.

When your team understands what these moments look like, and that they are empowered to deliver them, they are far more likely to take the initiative on their own.  If you recognize these great behaviors they can become a part of your organizational culture over time.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but what leaders prioritize will become a part of the business fabric.

When you have selected the right team, engaged them in a meaningful way, and provided context around how to provide great service, your team will be inspired to take service to the next level.


Tony Johnson -Guest Experience Leader-

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