Customer Experience and the Importance of the Little Things

Matt Volpi
February 24, 2015
Customer satisfaction is a key goal for all organizations; it keeps recurring revenues flowing, creates positive reviews and feedback, maintains the company’s reputation and lets you know you’re meeting their needs. This is usually achieved by ensuring current offerings are high quality and meeting customer needs while developing new things to meet additional requirements. Beyond these core tenets of delivering customer value, there are other ways to “surprise and delight” customers. Here are two recent examples from my own life:
  • When I lost one of my credit cards and called the issuing bank for a replacement, not only did they make it a short and pleasant phone call but they overnighted me replacement cards because I was a long-time customer.
  • A new high-end Mexican restaurant in town treated our party to an unexpected take-away bag of chocolate churros and Guatemalan worry dolls (tiny dolls you put under your pillow that are supposed to let you sleep peacefully and carry your worries away).
Looking at these gestures, there are plenty of reasons why the company’s management might have considered those bad ideas. First and foremost, they all cost money and have no direct profits. For many businesses, doing anything that doesn’t have a clear revenue outcome can be met with resistance. Additionally, both items do divert some amount of resources away from the core business activities to deliver these unexpected surprises to customers. Someone is cooking those churros, buying those worry dolls and arranging instant credit card printing and shipping functions. But looking at the bigger picture, there are also clear reasons why a business would want to take the extra step and treat their customers to these little bonuses. For the credit card company, the sooner I have a new card, the sooner I can start using it again, which means the company is weighing the cost of expediting production and shipping with the revenue that will come from those extra 10 days or so of usage. It wouldn’t be too hard for marketing or customer service executives to pull the numbers, do the math and make a clear business case that the potential lost revenue from my time without their credit card was greater than the cost of shipping me one the next day. For the restaurant, there is a less obvious connection between these post-meal splurges and additional revenue. Instead, the business is assuming that leaving me with a great last impression is going to spur repeat business and positive word of mouth. At the same time they are also taking the risk that the promise of some chocolate churros after the check comes won’t cannibalize their dessert business. This second type of “little thing” requires the business to take the much larger leap that their gestures will pay off in the end. There’s no way to quantify that a little post-meal pleasantry is creating more business and it takes a management team committed to a more holistic customer satisfaction. But time and time again we have seen that companies committed to a culture of customer satisfaction convert buyers into fans and visitors into regulars, whether it is DoubleTree Hotel’s cookies or Zappos and their legendary customer service. There was even a scientific study at Emory and Baylor Universities that showed surprise stimulates the brain and creates far more satisfaction than a predictable event. What little things can your business do to make customers feel special and appreciated? Is it free shipping, a surprise doggie bag, a non-sales follow-up call just to see how they’re doing? Regardless of which tactics you try, the most important thing is ensuring that “customer focus” doesn’t hinge purely on the transaction, but on their entire experience and journey with your business.

About the Author

Matt Volpi

Matt Volpi is a senior consultant for Tovana Consulting, Inc. His specialties are product strategy, content marketing, sales enablement, market research and SWOT analysis. Matt has executive experience at two technology startups and held product management and marketing roles at large multinational firms in the mobile space. When he's not helping clients or wrangling his daughters, he's usually whipping something up in the kitchen or coaching softball.

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