Paper Airplane Soaring

I love to travel. There’s nothing like immersing oneself in the planning, as well as the destination. But the mechanics of getting from one place to another . . . not so fun. Usually.

This week, however, I had a completely different experience on Southwest Airlines. One of the flight crew was getting married soon. We passengers found this out because a crew member announced it as she introduced the flight attendant, giving her a crown made from peanut packages and swizzle sticks. And we were all invited to share our good wishes and some advice about marriage.

As I was writing my thoughts on the paper provided, I realized this team had changed a mundane travel event into a joyful memory I wouldn’t forget.

It put me in mind of a Heath Brothers podcast describing a similar situation of customer service excellence, also on Southwest Airlines. (Good job, Southwest!)

These types of short but “memorable and meaningful” experiences are what authors Chip and Dan Heath call “peak” moments. In a book I highly recommend—The Power of Moments—they note that “. . . The surprise about great customer service experiences is that they are mostly forgettable and occasionally remarkable.

But what we don’t forget are the bad customer experiences. Happy customers tell their friends but unhappy customers tell the world through social media.

Recently, I went to a local store to buy some new shoes. Apparently though, I was wearing an invisibility cloak. After a full 10 minutes in the not-so-busy store, no one greeted me or asked if I needed any help. I left frustrated and angry. So, I took my business elsewhere.

The second place was packed with shoppers, but I was greeted immediately and within a few minutes I was being helped. That store has earned my loyalty. They did more than simply fix my problem, which the Heath Brothers would say just “whelms” people. They gave me a pleasantly memorable moment. A peak moment.

All businesses are in the customer service business. We all serve clients in one way or another. But how do we go from just “whelming” our clients to “overwhelming” them in a good way?

Excellent customer service hinges on peak moments. Start with the personal. Know your clients and their needs.

Then create opportunities for a little magic. Build in something fun, something they won’t forget, something that soars beyond their expectations.

Those magical moments will depend on your business and your customers. Maybe it’s how you kick off a project, how you communicate your excitement to be working with them. Maybe it’s in the middle of a project, when you take the time to inject some humor into a challenging stretch of work. Or maybe it’s at the end of a project when you get together to celebrate mutual success. It could even be a phone call or a personal note to let your clients know how much you appreciate the relationship.

Reading The Power of Moments, experiencing my own positive and negative incidents as a consumer, and writing down these thoughts has been a kick in the pants for me and my team. I hope it’s a kick in yours too. What are you doing to build customer moments that are at least “occasionally remarkable”?

photo of Michelle Kelly

Michelle Kelly, CEO (Chief Enjoyment Officer)


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