In leading loyalty, there are few spotlights as bright as the unexpected extras that make customers smile, glow, and rave about us. Similarly, there are few things that engage and excite team members as much as when they feel the delight of a customer.
What Does Surprising With Unexpected Extras Look Like?
Consider this story about a pizza restaurant that was a little unusual. Like many such places, this restaurant was staffed by teenagers and college kids out to earn a few bucks. They showed up, put on an apron, and did their job.
But when this particular manager’s team started a shift, they formed a huddle. They’d be leaning in, standing up, climbing on a bench, talking excitedly, while the manager wrote things down rapidly. This manager is extraordinary in one respect. As he huddles with his team, he asks only one question: “What can we do for our customers this week that we’ve never done before?”
The question, all by itself, excites his team. They are smart people, and he wants the benefit of their brains, not just their hands. The huddle is an opportunity for brainstorming ideas that are way outside the box, and the manager gleefully sends them off to try out their ideas.
In each of the team’s huddles, they talked about what’s working, proposed wild new experiments, and made plans to carry them out. When something worked, they celebrated like crazy. Customers loved the place and were always looking forward to the next innovation. This unique pizza franchise became predictably unpredictable in a good way.
The manger’s application of the generosity principle was simple: surprise with unexpected extras by constantly experimenting with new and creative ways to show people you care.
Counterfeit Surprise With an Extra
A counterfeit “extra” is giving something that customers already expect, like a fortune cookie at the end of a Chinese dinner or the sample box of floss from the dentist. Customers aren’t surprised and delighted by “extras” like these. If we want to increase loyalty through living the principle of generosity, we need to do better than this.
Why Don’t We Surprise With Unexpected Extras?
First, it takes extra effort to think about ways to delight customers and put them into practice. There’s the excuse that “I’m already too busy with the work I’m doing to take on this extra surprise stuff.” We don’t buy it. The extra energy it takes to do little things to let people know you value them is more likely to energize you than wear you down.
Second, some organizations have policies that prevent employees from being generous.
Imagine how many times an employee has to deliver bad news to a customer, knowing that the customer will be disappointed, upset, or angry. Requiring employees to enforce ungenerous policies is a surefire way to undermine the loyalty of both customers and employees. Like peering into a microscope, customer-facing employees see close up the kinds of problems customers have and can use their magnified vision to identify opportunities for making the customer experiences better.
So how do we motivate and empower customer-facing employees to improve the customer’s end-to-end experience? It’s incredibly simple: ask for their ideas!
How Do We Surprise With Unexpected Extras?
Brainstorm with your team. Ask them, “What could we do for customers that we have never done before to make their experience better?” To generate ideas, think about things that potentially annoy or stress out customers or waste their time. When do customers hesitate or look confused? What would make them feel more valued and appreciated? These things do not need to cost a lot of money. In fact, some of the best ideas don’t cost anything.
For successful brainstorming, there should be lots of diverse viewpoints in the conversation. Invite your entire team, and maybe include people from another department or those with different roles. And be sure to include those who interact with customers most often.
One caution: most brainstorming sessions are too tame. These should be a storm, not a drizzle.
No brainstorming session is worth doing unless the ideas fly fast and free. Here are some guidelines to make brainstorming exciting and fun enough to produce the kind of ideas that will incite loyalty:
- Write ideas down fast on a chart or whiteboard.
- Don’t judge the ideas at this stage. Just write them down quickly.
- Ask the group for lots of ideas. Go for quantity, not quality.
- Keep it high-energy. Nobody relaxes. Try standing instead of sitting.
If the idea flow starts to slow down, try asking these questions:
- “What are the real jobs our customers want us to do for them?”
- “Let’s walk through everything our customers do with us. Where could we make their ‘journey’ easier and better?”
- “We’re customers too. What would we want if we were doing business with our team?”
Most importantly, have fun with it! The benefits of brainstorming go beyond the ideas. Team members feel heard, valued, connected, and aligned. They feel involved—part of the solution.
Once the fast-and-furious brainstorming session is complete, ask team members to go up to the whiteboard or flip chart and make up to three checkmarks by the ideas they like best. They can put all three of their votes on one idea or spread them across three different ideas. In evaluating which ideas to implement, ask whether or not the solution will make life easier for customers.
Then sort the ideas that get the most votes into two buckets: ideas your team could implement right now, and things that require management involvement before implementation.
Run thoughtful experiments to see what works. From the list of ideas your team could implement right now, pick one and run an experiment. Organizations that build loyalty constantly experiment with new ways to show customers how much they are valued and appreciated.
Fun ideas like a pizza chute or simple ones like a cold bottle of water on a hot day can make a big difference over time. Try the ideas your team is excited about. Do them on a small scale so the risks are minimal. See what works. And then celebrate like crazy when an idea works!
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