By: The CPI Team On: March 22, 2011 In: Contact Center Comments: 0

We hear so much about customer satisfaction, but is “satisfaction” enough? Moving a step beyond to delighting – even astonishing — our customers helps build loyalty that keeps customers coming back. What does it take to create an astonishing experience? I had one of those experiences recently and I saw 3 things I’d like to share with you.

I arrived at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tennessee to attend the Contact Center Association 2011 conference. I came in one day early so I could visit with friends and family. Unfortunately, I had a terrible cold and a very bad case of laryngitis. I could not talk above a whisper. My sister and I were having dinner at one of Opryland’s restaurants. Our waitress, Paula, could not help but notice my plight – she had to lean over to hear me order dinner! After she took our order, she returned to the table with a mug filled with warm water, honey and lemon. She said, “I thought this might help your throat.” I was blown away that someone would care enough to do such a kind thing (and it did help my throat!!). But, Paula wasn’t finished. As we were finishing up our meal, Paula came back with a “to-go” cup and lid. Inside, she had put more honey and lemon. She said I could use the coffee maker in my room to add hot water to the cup to drink before I went to sleep. I was truly astonished. What an amazing thing to do. As I’ve reflecting on the experience, I’ve identified three things that made it happen:

First, Paula took time to see me as a person. Now, someone with laryngitis so bad they can’t talk above a whisper might stand out a bit to a waitress, but she could have just gone on with her night. Her “job” was to get food to my table. She went beyond her job…to Paula, this was a relationship, not a transaction. She went much deeper than the business at hand (getting food to my table) and met a much greater need for me.

Second, she took time to take the extra step. Paula didn’t stop with one mug of medicine for my throat – she made me two! It didn’t take her long, but it was clearly “above and beyond.” She was motivated to do a little bit more to make a difference for her customer.

Third, she works for an organization that approves of extra effort. Clearly, Paula is a caring person. But just as clearly, Paula works in a culture that rewards taking the extra step. We can probably all think of an organization where a manager would have yelled at Paula for giving away the honey and lemon. Instead, for the price of the honey and lemon, the organization made a huge statement. They mean it when they say, “we are committed to meeting your desires and exceeding your expectations.” They allow people like Paula to succeed.

Hopefully, the crazy early-spring weather hasn’t given you a cold and laryngitis. However, the next time you see honey and lemon, ask yourself, “Am I building a culture that would allow the ‘Paulas’ of my organization to astonish our customers?”

What other things do you think contribute to creating astonishing experiences?