I read Tom Peters’ The Pursuit of Wow! back in 1994. He wasn’t the first to write about exceptional customer experiences and he certainly isn’t the last. Yet, as I talked briefly in my last blog, marketing trends come and go, but the customer really remains the center of it all.
Today a customer’s ability to transmit a good or bad experience is far greater than it was in 1994. Back then personal PC use was just starting to cross the chasm. Only the experienced were diving deep into bulletin boards and chat rooms. You still sent a letter to Aunt Marge instead of an email. AOL was just starting to have its time in the sun. Your ‘bad’ customer experiences were usually cocktail party stories.
But now I can be in the middle of an experience [good or bad] and start tweeting away about it. In a matter of seconds I have the ability to affect a brand’s public reputation. As a marketing person I have no control over it. What I do have control over is how the brand is empowered in the hands of employees. Last week I had the great pleasure of hearing Dennis Reno, VP of Customer Experience at Oracle, talk about building customer satisfaction. One of his key points is empower your employees to act with the customer in mind.
At Panera Bread today I had one of those experiences that will make me a Panera enthusiast for a long while. As an independent consultant I have always appreciated their good food and free wifi on those days I need to get out of the office. After ordering my coffee and chocolate croissant this morning, I handed the gentleman at the cash register My Panera card [their loyalty program] and jokingly said to him that ‘someday it would be a magic card and things would just be paid for’. In fact, my pastry was already free due to their loyalty perks and I was getting out the cash for my coffee, when the man said “no need, it is magic today.”
Now I don’t know if I looked like I was having a bad day [it’s possible as I hadn’t slept well the night before and had already driven back to my house once to get the wallet that I left behind], but he somehow know that I needed a little bit of magic in my day. Just one cup of free coffee made my day–gave me that Wow! experience. It inspired me to write this post.
I am working with a new service company right now to help them develop a customer experience that will set a higher standard of service for an industry that traditionally has only wanted to provide exceptional service to those who could pay for it. It’s an interesting challenge as only Disney can manufacture experience–the rest of us need to create it, replicate it and hope that our employees with embrace it.
It’s my turn to go put a little Wow! in someone’s day…maybe you should do the same.