"Oh Wow!"

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I recently had the good fortune to spend a weekend at a private game lodge “Springbok” in the Namitha Reserve for a family get-together. I hasten to add this is not one of the top price game lodges aimed at people with lots of US dollars, but more a place for locals to feel pampered. One of the questions on the guest satisfaction form upon our departure was: “what were the highlights?”

My initial thoughts went to the amazing game viewing we had been privileged to see – a lioness and her cubs so close we could have reached out to touch them; a porcupine scurrying from the Landrover lights; a mating pair of the endangered blue crane; two bull elephants that seemed intent on making us reverse just for fun! I could carry on describing the wonders of the South African Bush, but as the family convened before setting off we got onto the subject of the highlights.

We soon realized that although the animals were the reason we had initially chosen this venue, (much like the beach is the attraction for a Durban hotel) what would make us return was the attentive hospitality we had experienced. Without intending to sound glib or ungrateful, the animals were the backdrop to the overall experience. All game reserve lodges offer their guests the opportunity to see wild animals up close and in their natural habitat. So how does one lodge differentiate itself from another? It is truly “wow!” to see and hear a lion roar but the lodge itself has no control over that. The focus then has to be on what is controllable, in order to delight the customer.

 

The hospitality industry is a good example of where the “wow!” factor is becoming increasingly difficult to deliver. Despite the threat of terrorism and a weakened world economy, people are still in love with the idea of travel. Hotels have been competing largely on the basis of what they have naturally (stunning views or beach access) or what they can offer the guest in terms of facilities (golf course, spa, 24-hour service…). While the look and feel of the hotel and its facilities are clearly important, there is a point when the cost-benefit ratio makes it unaffordable to continue to try to impress purely by the product. A stunning bathroom with an outdoor shower and a view are very cool but when the next hotel offers something similar, then it slips slightly in its ability to impress. The expectation bar has now been raised.

How then is it possible to surprise customers, keep them coming back for more and having them do your advertising for you without pricing oneself out of business? The answer lies in the people, not the things. Customers have basic expectations of any business dependent on how much they are paying for the product or service. It is acceptable that a toasted sandwich from a fast food chain is served on thick industrial-use crockery with a sprig of parsley paying lip service to garnish. In a five star hotel, the same would be simply unacceptable, but if the sandwich is made with home-made bread and beautifully presented, that is acceptable. Note I say acceptable, not delightful because it is expected. What would make the sandwich or the five-star hotel memorable would be how the staff went out of their way to ensure that you felt special or if your preferences are remembered and repeated next time.

For example, our game ranger asked our preferences for tea & coffee the first morning. The next day, our drinks were made to our liking and she had ensured that the general penchant for muffins had been catered for. A little gesture but one which we noticed and appreciated.

The devil is in the detail. It requires a culture where the staff is encouraged to move off the “how may I help you?” script to actually really listening to and engaging with their customers. It requires obsessive attention to detail and the little cues that customers give about their preferences or how they are feeling. It requires a dedicated system of making a note and personalizing the service to that customer. It requires a natural friendliness and attitude of wanting to delight; using imagination to eliminate any possible frustrations. It means that good enough is never good enough.

If you want to wow your customers: Think of the little things you can do to surprise and please then do them! Learn from the best and try to bring that into your business. Keep it personal and pay attention to detail.

Author: Janet Askew

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31 comments
    It is very true that in all the discussion we have about our businesses we may miss the WOW factor
    We may tend to become so product driven or admin and process and we forget to smile have charisma and show a bit of wit
    A sense of humour may also be lacking sometimes
    agreed at the end of the day we have to create a wow customer experience in order to convert customers to disciples ;)
    It only takes little moments of magic that are not costly see the customer as someone you want to help...the sale will come later if it doesnt happen immediately
    Over the years our business has developed a fun and motivating (even if it was more about the fun we had internally) by coming up with fun ways to celebrate special times in the year. This can be done in a digital version or a physical version. So if you want to keep customers feeling like it isnt always process and admin looks for ways to have some fun
    One year we asked each person in the team to link themselves with a SUPER HERO that thye felt represented them and then we got our graphic designer to super impose our heads onto their bodies and each day of the week we sent a message from a different team member to our SUPER HERO clients It became that they awaited the light relief each day to see who would be next
    Heart shaped donuts for Valentines clients and their kids to T20 cricket even night horse racing Its just one way to make the interaction with your loyal customers an even better bond
    awesome but even just taking a client to a spoty instead of directig them there is great marekting...just dont forget to give out a business card :)
    *spot
    Entrepreneurs also need to bear in mind that staff may not be as incliend to WOW...some incentive si sometimes necssary.
    Other ways of creating a WOW factor is in the way you present ideas. Modern freelance designers can make your presentation look amazing without costing the earth and high quality printing at your local print shop is great when you just need a few copies. so surpirse your clients with your creativity ...
    Showrunners are the personality type who have a good combination of left and right brain - creativity and practicality and they tend to display charisma and wit in pitching new ideas propositions or products but they also demonstrate enough technical know-how to convince catchers that the ideas can be developed according to industry-standard practices and within resource constraints. Though they may not have the most or the best ideas showrunners are those rare people in organizations who see the majority of their concepts fully implemented.
    Ja one thing I am hnng up on is spelling mistakes you can have a seriously WOW iea and crash it with a simple spelling mistake. Is it justme ? Obviously social media and are not good bed fellows but that oks in my book.
    eish so I make some spelling errors here...best I slow down with the typing :)
    I had a good giggle at that The Cash Flow Guy...but in all seriousness I agree. Nothing puts me off more than spelling and grammatical errors - so easy to get right if we just take a little care.
    Sadly these people are few and far between and most of them end up trying to do everything themselves because they tend to be perfectionists
    @ the tastychef so what WOWed you in your busijness recently?
    I have found that it is the small details that make the most impression they usually seem mundane but they dont go unnoticed. following up with a client after a sale a thank you note to thank them for choosing your product a birthday message... these are some of the few things that are part of a recipe to WOW clients. and build loyalty.
    I agree @SylvesterFalata the little added extra's also set you apart from the competition. It maytake a little more time and effort but so worth it to ensure a happy returning client. It's an especially good tactic if you are a new businesstrying to make your mark.
    that's true. And one could also have it as part of a service that is just your signature. for an example my company started colecting information on clients interests and sending them 'random' gifts that we know they would appreciate. besides the gift that's also a great sign to show my clients that i actually hear them i value them and i am invested in them. its not just a transaction.
    I love the idea of giving clients a thoughtful gift! What a great way to build a personal relationship. I'm stealing that one @SylvesterFalata
    Hi Sylvester I like your comments. This article is also great! I agree with the article that one comes to expect great service (especially if you pay more than what is the norm). However for me the game changer is when things go wrong. When a company gives me excellent service I am merely satisfied not necessarily wow-ed. It is a hygiene factor. I expect good service.However when things go (sometimes horribly) wrong my loyalty is established or destroyed in the process. If the company admits to making a mistake and goes out of their way to rectify it and make it up to me I am mightily impressed but when they are blasé about it I get really upset and the entire relationship is destroyed. Often my loyalty has been cemented so firmly with a company but only after they messed up - but rectified it in a great way. I can cite many examples of this. So what are the most important wow-factors for you?
    I Completely agree with you. its when the rubber hits the road that we get to reinforce the 'Wow' in the relationships with a client. I usually say that its a great opportunity for a business to reinforce its values. conflict doesnt always mean its the end. well... most of the time. that's how we solidify relationships with clients. those are some of the best times to 'Wow'.
    Its usually how far a company is willing to go to rectify the mistake or conflict that the relationship is made solid.
    Sylvester you touch on an incredibly important aspect of business engagement with customers - values! Websites are overcrowded with wonderful promises of values missions visions but one often suspects that it is a marketing department and that employees have no idea what these values are that they are supposed to live in their relationship with customers. I really admire those companies who really get it right. What is the most effective way to ensure that your deskbound employees understand what the values are that are chosen in boardrooms? How does it get to the customer? I don't think that the website is the best way to communicate that.
    I think the values have to be communicated and be reinforced with every client interaction. but i agree with you the employees have to know excactly the companyvalues are. they have to be second nature to them. so proper trainig and education of brand values isessential. so that all the touch points that one has with clients are covered wether the interaction is face to face or virtual.
    its a Fantastic one. clients always appreciate it. have fun with the idea.
    Company values can be an important part of marketing your venture. I love how Kellogg's use their values as an extremely powerful message about who they are on their website (now yes whether youremployees live it is a different challenge). Look at this: http://www.kelloggcompany.com/en_US/our-values.html Their opening statement about it is so catchy: Our values are part of our DNA. They guide the way we work with our business partners within our communities and with each other. The entire page that they communicate their values throguh is really worthwhile reading. It is a prime example of how a company can engage with and connect to their clients to set themselves apart from their competition - that WOW-factor!