“Your bill has been taken care of already”, said the waiter. “Have a good afternoon.”
I was flabbergasted! I looked around. I didn’t know anyone in the restaurant. Then it dawned on me. The place had been recommended by the couple up the road from whom my wife and I had just made a major purchase. We weren’t from the area so we’d asked if there were any good lunch spots in the vicinity. We’d thanked them for the recommendation but hadn’t really indicated we were going there.
They must have called ahead to tell the restaurant that if we showed up, our meal was on them. It was such a thoughtful gesture and it reinforced the positive feeling we already had about our purchase. It wasn’t a fancy restaurant or an expensive meal – the amount was inconsequential compared to what we’d just spent. But the fact that they had made the effort to be so nice was touching.
Then I thought about it a little more. The restaurant’s menu had been on the table in the reception area. It had seemed a little strange but it hadn’t really registered. Is it possible that this seemingly impromptu gesture had actually been repeated for other customers in the past?
I smiled. The whole thing had probably been a little bit of customer service theatre, well rehearsed from years of practice. Yet I still felt warm and fuzzy. Why? Because while the “surprise the big spender by buying him lunch” routine had been played out before, it still reflected a level of thoughtfulness that convinced me that I was dealing with the right kind of people. The fact that the gesture was premeditated and practiced, part of the standard experience they provided their customers, in some ways made it more meaningful. They weren’t just nice people. They were nice people who thought carefully about their customers and put effort into ensuring they had a memorable experience.
Consider this: once I’d closed the deal with them, they could have handed me a gold embossed envelope containing a gift certificate for a free dinner at a fancy restaurant. Or they could have mailed it to me a few days later. Either way, it probably wouldn’t have made much of an impression. I might have preferred just to get a discount on my purchase. Instead, they surprised and delighted me not by the cost of their action but by the care with which they had planned my experience.
What could you do in your company to really impress your customers after they’ve done business with you? How could you surprise and delight them? It doesn’t need to be expensive because when it comes to customer experience, it really is the thought that counts.