This article originally appeared in Customer Strategist.
Though negative customer service stories often garner the most headlines, there are plenty of wonderful stories of companies and employees going out of their way to help customers that don’t get the same spotlight. These “Moments of Wow” are valuable experiences that show how important human interaction can be to build long-lasting loyalty. And they have a real impact on the health of the business, too.
We engaged 51 consumers, contact center associates, and business leaders via online surveys and LinkedIn to share their own “moments of wow.” What we found were some common threads among these moments: empathy, surprise, delight, and resolution. The lessons of these moments can influence any business.
Most of the “wow” moments shared by respondents occurred in retail, travel, or banking, and most commonly because a customer had a problem that needed fixing. These are all very customer-facing industries, so it’s natural that they would have the most wow moments. Amazon came up most often by name, which also isn’t surprising, since Amazon is often noted as the torch-bearer for great customer experiences.
Many of these experiences, however, are one-time events. A majority of survey respondents reported that they rarely have experiences that exceed their expectations. And when they do happen, they most often occur in traditional service channels.
Actual Customer Moments of Wow
"I was looking for clothes to wear for work. I often struggle because of my body shape and feel self-conscious...Not only did the customer service representative help me, but I ended up purchasing other clothes also. The clerk spent close to an hour with me, had excellent product knowledge, and great patience. She made me feel confident with my shape and did not push for me to buy anything. However, everything that I tried on looked fantastic and I would have bought more, but had a limited budget."
“I had to go in for an MRI that was extremely expensive and my medical insurance only covered 60 percent of the cost. I told the receptionist to cancel the procedure. She said, ‘Don’t cancel, let me see what I can do for you.’ She then went and checked with the head of the laboratory and came back to me and said, ‘We have decided to waive the 40 percent balance for you,’ and this was all done with a smile, compassion and understanding.”
“I had booked tickets using Tramline.com but realized that my CEO and I had been assigned seats in different carriages. This was my fault entirely, yet the CSR went out of their way to find a solution and resolve the situation... All communications were via Twitter and then Direct Messaging on Twitter.”
“Victoria’s Secret mobile chat worked great and allowed me to choose items easily.”
“Tweeting to my bank on a Sunday morning about a password/security issue. They responded within 20 minutes.”
Surprise and delight:
“I arrived in Manhattan for work only to learn that my hotel reservation made through a third party was never received by the hotel. It was 9:30 p.m., I had no reservation, and this hotel was sold out. The representative at the front desk helped me for over 45 minutes to find a nearby hotel at my corporate rate that had availability. She even walked across the street to speak to a front desk clerk at a competing hotel to ask if they had availability. She provided me $50 in vouchers for dinner in their restaurant and paid for the cab to get me safely to the hotel that had room. While this particular hotel could not provide accommodations for my travel needs, they went out of their way to make sure I was taken care of and because of this, I will refer others and I will stay there in the future.”
“At Kohl’s, buying a Father’s Day gift, the woman at the cash register asked me if I had any coupons. I replied, ‘I wish.’ And she replied, ‘Your wish is my command.’ She produced an unexpected coupon for an additional 15 percent off. I was floored.”
“JetBlue automatically credited the TrueBlue accounts of every person on the flight $100 when in-flight entertainment didn’t work.”
“Amazon charged my credit card twice. As soon as I contacted them, my issue was resolved. It was a first call resolution. The CSR was empowered and took initiative.”
“I had a problem with my internet connection. The CSR troubleshooted with me for close to an hour, listened to my feedback and went the extra mile. I was impressed by the fact that what I was saying mattered.”
The Employee Point of View
What matters most to customers is to have their issue resolved and feel that they are being listened to by the company they are dealing with. On the flip side, customer service associates pointed out stories where they were able to relax the rules and move away from the transaction into a real conversation with customers to resolve their issue. They loved it when they could help someone and show their human side. According to some associates, these moments gave them a sense of purpose, which influences employee satisfaction, retention, and advocacy.
“I used to work for an airline and one day we received a complaint from a very angry dad saying his baggage was lost and inside was a Princess Elsa dress for his daughter. We promised we would find it, but unfortunately when we found the bag, the dress was missing. It was sold out in every Disney store in the world. It took us a couple of months to finally buy a new costume. Simply delivering the new outfit after all that time would not be enough to eliminate the bad impression. So, we decided to buy a Princess Elsa castle and hired a ‘real’ princess to deliver the presents to the girl’s house. The surprise was settled before with her parents. When Princess Elsa opened the door of the house, the girl got ‘frozen!’ After that shock, she opened the presents, tried on the new outfit and sang every single song from the movie with our Princess Elsa. It was a very special day to be remembered!”
“Once I helped a lady to get her travel visa from Mexico to the United States. She told me that she had to send her sons to live with her sister in America 17 years ago, and finally she would be able to hug her sons. She thanked me a lot and started crying out of happiness. Since that time, I feel my work is something much more significant.”
“I was helping a customer on the phone, and she stated she couldn’t make a deposit in her account to cover a situation. She explained that her father was on his deathbed and she couldn’t leave him to make a deposit. The call hit home for me as I lost my father…and didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. I told her she was doing the right thing, to stay by her father, and shared what happened with mine. We talked for quite some time, and she seemed more comforted when we finally ended the call. Less than a week later a survey came in where she stated that it was like talking to an old friend and how it was one of the few times of comfort she had with all of this. Made me tear up when I saw that survey.”
Create Your Own Moments of Wow
Every company in every industry has the potential to create customer moments of wow. They don’t require huge IT investments or years-long program implementations. They only require a willingness throughout the company to have a customer-first mindset and replace the traditional cost-focused approach to customer service and sales to one where humanity shines through. Costs are important, but so are relationship strength and loyalty. They may even become revenue drivers.
Here are some common themes woven throughout respondents’ stories that will help create an environment where wow moments happen every day.
Employee flexibility and empowerment: Scripts should serve as guideposts, not strict instructions. Allow your employees to show their humanity when interacting with customers. Moments of Wow are born from this freedom.
Hire the right people: The best customer service and sales reps are empathetic problem solvers who can work independently and understand how to balance the business needs with customer needs. Start at the very beginning by recruiting those with the best skills and traits for your business. It may mean paying them more or hiring fewer, but better people.
Respect your customers as people: A transactional focus is all too common in customer service or sales environments, because keeping costs down has been the primary objective. That just won’t cut it in today’s marketplace. When you put customers first, revenue and business growth usually follow.
Use the channels your customers prefer: Twitter is on the rise as a customer service channel of choice, as are chat and mobile options for customers on the go who need quick resolutions. Other emerging channels like Snapchat, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things are also on the horizon. Learn about what your customers want. Don’t make them come to you. Go to them.
Be proactive: When possible, solve issues before customers even know they have them. This will be made possible with more connected devices, the Internet of Things, and consumers’ willingness to share information in exchange for value. Don’t put the burden on the customer to resolve an issue you know they have and can fix. After all, the best customer service is no service, if customers know they can trust you to be proactive and have their best interests at heart.