Posted on

My take: Exceeding expectations can be remarkable

Nov. 4/11 2013; Volume 27/number 14

By Steven Feldman

Feldman-SteveColor
Steven Feldman

So, you just completed a job for one of your customers. Everything went as planned from both your and her perspectives. She came in, she found something she wanted, the service was fine, the price was right and installation was timely and completed without a hitch.

Her expectations were met. And yet she did not tell a soul.

A few years ago, I was sitting in Toronto with Peter Barretto, CEO of Torly’s. He told me one of the secrets in business—and in life, for that matter—is to be remarkable. Remarkable does not mean exceptional; remarkable simply describes something people will remark about. He later sent me a book called The Purple Cow that expounded on this subject.

Meeting expectations is not remarkable. It’s the price of the entree. Doing what is expected does not score many points.

I was thinking about this the other day after returning from a business trip. I drove to the airport. There was the usual amount of traffic. I found a parking spot, not right up front but not all the way in the back. The line at security was nothing abnormal. I pre-boarded the plane with the rest of the Medallions so I wasn’t standing in the jetway for very long. The plane took off on time, I was served my choice of Coca Cola products and we landed safely, maybe a few minutes ahead of schedule.

The next day I received an email from the airline requesting that I take a few minutes and fill out a survey on its performance. Can you say the word, “delete”?

I wasn’t about to take the time to complete a survey for an experience that was neither exceptional nor abysmal. The airline simply did what I paid it to do: get me from point A to point B safely and on time. That’s it. If you’re not going to do anything above and beyond, why should I have anything to say?

Now, let’s hit the rewind button to a flight I took last month. Same airline. The only difference was that I was upgraded to the front cabin. Not a big deal; it happens about 50% of the time when I travel. But this experience was remarkable. Here’s why: After the forward door was secured, the captain removed himself from the cockpit with a piece of paper in hand. He looked at the 12 or 16 of us who were only concerned with getting to point B safely and on time. And then he started talking.

“Hey, guys. I’m Captain So and So and I’ll be taking you to New York this afternoon. I just wanted to introduce myself and let you know we should have a smooth flight except for some rough air over parts of Ohio…So, I see we have some people connecting in New York to get to some interesting places. Who is going on to Belize?” At which point someone raised his hand. “Have you ever been there before? You know, that’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit. I’ll tell you what; I’ll find out the gate you are connecting to while we are in flight and I’ll have the flight attendant let you know…I see here someone is going to Paris.” And someone right in front of him said, “That’s me.” The captain proceeded to tell a story of when he was in Paris some years ago. “Are you going for business or pleasure?”

You get the point. This three-minute pseudo conversation was insignificant in the general scheme of things, but the captain went above and beyond. He showed he cared. It was not staged. In a word, it was remarkable.

So, the next time a customer walks into your store, don’t just meet her expectations. Exceed them. Be remarkable. It will pay off in spades.