Author: Hillary Miller-Wise (HMW), CEO of Esoko
Esoko’s second value is to “give everyone a remarkable experience”. But how do we know what remarkable looks like? Surely, the definition of a remarkable experience is highly subjective. What’s remarkable to you may be not be remarkable to me. So how do we know what makes an experience remarkable?
Let’s look at a few examples in business.
Perhaps one of the greatest companies in terms of customer service is an online retail store called Zappos.com. Zappos started out selling shoes online. But the CEO doesn’t care about shoes. What he cares about is giving customers a remarkable experience. In fact, the company’s #1 value is to “Deliver wow!”. Here is an excerpt from the Zappos website on this value:
When a customer experiences WOW, you are giving them a pleasant surprise. You are exceeding their expectations. You are addressing their needs thoughtfully and in unexpected ways. It is an expression of your authentic interest in the person who seeks your services, not just in the transaction. It is about making enduring personal emotional connections with empathy, generosity, and gratitude. It is about awareness of common human concerns that make a difference to each customer. It is about truth, it is about meaning, it is about details that cannot be measured by KPIs.
Zappos has countless stories of delivering wow, such as when the company accidentally marked all of their items down to $49 online by mistake. Some items in their store were worth $2,000 and yet the company marked them down to $49! What did the CEO do? Absolutely nothing. Despite losing nearly $2 million as a result. It was the company’s mistake and the customers were delighted. They were delighted because the company was not just interested in the transaction but in honoring their commitment. The CEO could have posted an apology on the website for the error and ended the sale. Customers probably would have forgiven him. But instead, customers respected him because he didn’t. The CEO knew that his company’s reputation was worth more than $2 million.
Giving people a remarkable experience can be defined by exceeding people’s expectations and by doing more than what’s required of you. I have my own example. When I was in my 20s and had just moved into my first apartment, I bought a coffee maker from a company called Krups. It was a little more than I could afford but I treated myself after landing my first job after university. Well, one day I put the coffee maker too close to the stove and it melted the plastic face, rendering the machine useless. I packed it up with a very apologetic note explaining what I had done and asking if there was anything the company could do. Within a week, a brand new coffee maker arrived at my doorstep. Not only that, but it was the more expensive model than my original. And there was a handwritten note that said: “Congratulations on your new job.” The company did far more than what was required and since that I day, I only buy Krups coffee makers.
All of these are examples of remarkable customer experiences and they stick.
“That best portion of a good man’s life; His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” William Wordsworth
Remarkable experiences shouldn’t be limited to customers, and don’t require grand gestures. There is a concept called “paying it forward”, which is the idea that the beneficiary of a good deed repays it to someone other than the original benefactor. Simple ways that I personally have done this before include paying the toll for the stranger in the car behind me in line at the toll booth, or topping up a stranger’s parking meter before they get a ticket.
Among the members of the Senior Leadership Team, we have a commitment to each other to frequently ask ‘How can I help you?’. When someone is stressed and overwhelmed, those five words can be music to their ears. Recently, a relatively new hire said to me in our first meeting: ‘What can I do to make your life easier?’ No one had ever asked me that question and I was blown away because it far exceeded my expectations.
Giving someone a remarkable experience can be as much about what we choose not to do as by what actions we take. In Judaism, there are 613 mitvah or “good deeds”. Jewish people must live their lives in pursuit of these goods deeds. Among them are:
- Not to embarrass others — Lev. 19:17
- Not to oppress the weak — Ex. 22:21
- Not to speak derogatorily of others — Lev. 19:16
- Not to take revenge — Lev. 19:18
- Not to bear a grudge — Lev. 19:18
Why would choosing not to embarrass others be remarkable? Because as humans we are weak at times, and we often give in to bad behavior such as embarrassing others or speaking derogatorily of others. Given that weakness is commonplace, choosing not to do those things is remarkable. The next time someone starts to gossip about others, try telling them that you choose not to speak ill of other people and I bet they will be surprised because it’s a remarkable choice, however small.
“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Benjamin Franklin
Reputations are built by a series of remarkable experiences. Unfortunately, it takes only one unremarkable experience to ruin a reputation. So we have to be diligent. We have to constantly look for ways – big and small – to surprise and delight customers and colleagues. And we have to do it not for the recognition or to have someone in our debt, but because it’s what makes us great as people and as a company.