Although I’m still not sure that it’s possible to exceed customer expectations, something happened last night that may have given me a slightly different perspective on this matter. In November of 2009 I published an article titled, “10 Ways to Enhance Customer Satisfaction“, on the very premise that the best we could do was enhance the customer’s experience based on a very short and loose definition of what customers expect:
- 100% Quality Products or Service
- On Time Delivery – In Full
- Lowest Possible Cost
In the manufacturing sector, quality is a given, early or late is never good, and, because of the first two, price becomes the discerning factor for future business. So, aside from making these experiences more satisfying, how can these expectations possibly be exceeded?
The Unexpected Difference
When I pulled up to the drive through window at our local Tim Hortons, I recognized the person at the window who was about to serve me with my order. When the window opened, we exchanged our usual greetings but this time was different – nothing really significant, but certainly different. After taking my money, there was an ever so slight pause where, for a very brief moment in time, I felt as though I was being “studied” much in the same way a passing glance suddenly turns to more of a stare when someone looks familiar to you.
Then the unexpected happened. When I was handed my coffee, I was also given a Quickpay Timcard that read: “Thank you for being our customer – Compliments of your local Tim Hortons”. I was surprised by this token of appreciation especially considering that the 2011 “Roll up the rim to win” contest just started again. What added to the experience is that the exchange was genuine and sincere.
Although contingency planning teaches us to expect the unexpected, I must admit that this time my guard was down. Although it could be argued that this is yet another marketing ploy to ensure my continued loyalty, the best I could do was express my gratitude in return.
In the business world, I don’t like surprises – usually because they’re not the enjoyable kind. In this particular case, however, Tim Hortons managed to surprise me in a positive way. As a customer, I actually appreciated the recognition. The monetary value of the card isn’t that significant, but, as they say, “It’s the thought that counts.” That is something that exceeded my expectations.
I recognize that “gifting” is frowned upon and in some companies may even cost you your job if accepted. This is especially true when it is linked to the award of new business. But somehow, this time and in this context, it seemed appropriate. Of course, the free advertising that Tim Hortons is now receiving can only help to offset the small investment they made through their act of kindness.
Are there other ways that we can exceed customer expectations without gifting? I’m sure that new features, technologies, and innovative ideas that improve a customer’s competitive position or enhances their product or service can also exceed customer expectations and may even offer the same element of surprise for the unexpected.
Until Next Time – STAY lean!