Should We Expect WOW Service?

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I dropped my car off at the dealership the other day for a minor repair. I didn’t know what to expect since this is my first time using them. Two hours later I got the call that it was ready to be picked up. How wonderful this was. The repair was done quickly and soon I’d “be back on the road”. I guess I couldn’t ask for more. But something happened that made me disappointed in the service. I guess I expected more after all.

The carpets weren’t vacuumed.

Should the dealership have vacuumed my carpets? Good question. I didn’t take the car in for a wash and vacuum. I took it in for a minor repair – which they did. But should they have vacuumed the carpets too?

Should We Expect WOW Service?

Question: Where do the responsibilities end for a service provider? If they provide the service as requested, should they look for other areas that need improvement too? Is this their job? And, if they find something else that is wrong, a small broken item, or something that can be easily corrected, should they fix that too?

I guess I believe the answer is YES.

To be honest, I knew the carpets were dirty and wanted to see if the dealership would vacuum the carpets. Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dirty them intentionally to “set them up” to see if they’d go above and beyond to clean them. But I did notice that it wasn’t done.

Again, should they have vacuumed them?

Going Above and Beyond For The Customer

Customer service gurus, trainers, and authors always talk about going above and beyond for the customer and finding ways to create an “experience”. I too have said the same thing many times before. But are we wrong?

Is it too much to expect a business to do more than we ask of them? I say no, it isn’t.

In today’s challenging marketplace, the businesses that anticipate their customers’ needs, make it convenient to purchase, and find ways to do more than expected will create a more loyal customer base than those who don’t.

Some readers may say that a dealership has little incentive to WOW their customers because they have a built-in customer base from those who purchased cars from them and the fact that the dealer mechanics have specific training on the brands where a local mechanic may not have. This will always give them repeat business. This is true.

But others say that a local mechanic relies on word-of-mouth referrals and quality work to stay in business and therefore is more apt to do more than expected. This too is true.

So, what’s the solution here?

Would a vacuumed carpet have made me more loyal to this dealer than if they hadn’t? Should I have taken the car to my neighborhood mechanic? Would he have vacuumed the carpet? I guess time will tell.

The moral of the story is…

Always “vacuum the carpets”. It never hurts to do a little more.

40 COMMENTS

  1. “Let’s go to the movies!” is a popular weekend request repeated by many people everywhere. What if you arrived at the theatre to see the movie and they had no concession stand? What? No buttered popcorn or junior mints? But, remember the request was not, “Let’s go get to the theatre and get some popcorn!”

    Service at its most basic level (at least in the commercial world) is meeting the customer’s needs and expectations. The “and expectations” part has become baked into the value proposition. There was likely a point when popcorn (or cleaning carpets) was a value-add designed to delight the customer. But, repeated efforts to gain competitive advantage altered the proposition and it became so connected to the customer need that it became part of the overall package. We live dealing with altered, ever changing customer expectations or we find a different profession.

    I have maintained that pursuing the value-added route to maintain competitive advantage, while generous, can become a dead-end street. Too many times customer expectations climb ever higher right along with the addition. At some point you run out of room to add (or you go bankrupt). A more effective (but culturally more challenging) route is value-unique–creating an unpredictable, ingenious response to customer. There is a limit to generosity; there is no limit to ingenuity! As customers, when we encounter value-added, we come to expect the addition to always be there, every time (“Where’s my clean carpet?”). With value-unique service providers are not anchored to repeated payoff to customers with every encounter. Just ask any casino what keeps patrons loyal to that one-armed bandit!

    I think it is terrific you question the very core of what we in CX consider fundamental. We need more dialogue that helps keep our thinking fresh and relevant. Thanks for the post.

  2. Managing Customer Expectations and then striving to Exceed Expectations is an essential business practice.
    This pertains to service, quality and value. Few businesses spend the time and effort required to differentiate themselves in their competitive space. One effective way to differentiate is to clearly communicate what the experience of being a customer will entail, and then consistently deliver on that promise, while striving to outperform.

  3. Years ago, table stakes for repair centers (especially dealers) was to clean your car and place a clean paper mat on top of the carpet on the driver’s side. For several years there has been cost pressure across every industry. And historically, customer satisfaction experts posited that you should not add expense by doing what customers don’t value. To this day I am disappointed when I pick up my car and it has not been “detailed”. I recently took a car I bought in 2020 into the dealer for a inspection (having prepaid for all services for seven years and nary a thought was given to the condition of the car when I picked it up.
    I frankly don’t buy that every B2C or B2B transaction must be an “Amazon” transaction. But if you sell a premium product or service you should price in the services clients appreciate – then you are getting paid for what customers want.
    Customer Experience is all the rage, but that experience starts with the prospect experience. When I bought my new – used car I paid the same dollar amount as I had for the same car ten years ago. So, I was willing to overlook the fact that the car had sat in the lot for almost a year and that the dealership did not have enough pride in its product to deliver the car clean (I took it back for some post-purchase clean-up and they did a very average job). My prospect experience was not actually as good as the customer experience I get now. The car repair center is run really well, and I feel well-treated there (except that they return my car “dirty”).
    Car buying is just one example of poor prospect experience. The B2B prospect experience today includes calls from pushy appointment setters, junior telemarketers reading from a script and endless emails touting solutions most recipients can’t use. It’s crazy and companies are wasting a ton of money using cadences or sequences on targets that aren’t.

  4. ”Should We Expect WOW Service?” – a good question! May I ask another question: “Why should we?” If the answer is “yes”, we also must answer the question: “Are we willing to pay higher prize for the service?” Some of us would, some wouldn’t.
    My point is that it’s not profitable for the enterprise to “do extra”, something the client didn’t ask for. BUT: I would consider a WOW experience if the service provider would inform me if they find something that should be repaired, and we could agree on repairing it later. I would appreciate it – still, I don’t have right to expect a thorough check for possible faults.
    You mentioned vacuuming. OK. But how about wiping the cockpit, too? Quick and easy to do. Or washing the windshield inside – where is the limit?
    It could also be possible to show service-oriented attitude by offering service on the areas they notice to be fixed – not telling the client that “your car is so dirty inside that it should be cleaned” but informing him that he could have also this and this service if he likes.

  5. They should have vacuumed the carpets but that is not the measure of quality service. We all make mistakes, You only find out how good they are when they make mistakes. If
    1. They contact you to see if they met your expectations, even if you have not complained.
    2. When you say no, how do they respond to put it right?
    3. They find out why it wasn’t done
    4. They contact you to say thank you for responding and that thanks to you they have fixed the problem
    5. They offer you an additional service for free if you come in again
    6. When you go back they know who you are and make a fuss of you

  6. In my view, a “Wow” experience is from something unique, unexpected, and rewarding, not something that’s routine. Since reinforcement learning always compares outcomes to expectations, one must first ask how the expectation (if any) was set. Perhaps another dealer at another time did this for you as part of their service (likely more than once) which set the expectation. After that, its absence causes dissatisfaction, which is apparently the case here.

  7. As Chip Bell and I have both reported, this is very much an issue of CX lagniappe (value-added performance) vs. a commoditizing vendor passively electing to provide no lagniappe (https://beyondphilosophy.com/delivering-unique-attractive-even-branded-customer-experience-lagniappe-company-can/). And, to your question, YES, we should definitely expect superior service because, if this dealership doesn’t understand the influence and impact of excellent and differentiated performance on downstream customer behavior, other dealerships do understand, and leverage, it.

    This proposition holds true for pretty much any B2B or B2C CX situation. We vote with our feet (and our fingertips on the Internet). Customers have become significantly more value-conscious, demanding and selective; and doing just the basics is no longer enough. If the supplier wants to create and sustain high levels of customer advocacy, lagniappe is the way to achieve that goal.

  8. Hi Chip,
    You are correct that a value-add service is designed to delight the customer and can soon become an expected feature. But where does it stop? Good question. But isn’t that where the Amazons and Zappos of the world changed service forever, as well as provided benefits not found anywhere else. And to every customer? They took service to the next level and left most competition behind. They sure used their ingenuity.

    I appreciate your comment, Chip. Thank you!

  9. Hi David,
    You are correct that many businesses don’t spend the time to find ways to differentiate themselves from their competition. I guess they don’t think a “better mousetrap” matters much. But we know better because it does! Thanks much!

  10. Hi Dan,
    I can understand the thought that we shouldn’t add to the cost of something customers don’t value but who is to decide what customers don’t value? What is that based on and who gets to decide? The business? If that’s the case, does it take into consideration the unmentioned expectations of a potentially loyal customer? Probably not. Good discussion, thanks.

  11. Hi Markku,
    Yes, there must be a point where extra services stop but isn’t this a great way to differentiate one business from another? This is the “service” side of a car dealer and service, or lack thereof, is subjective. What is WOW to one may be standard to another. But if we don’t do more to build future business and loyal customers someone else will. Thanks for your comment.

  12. Hi Henry,
    Yes, every service business can “up their game” by providing a follow-up call or contact (email/text, etc.) to confirm the satisfaction of the customer. Sometimes a follow-up is enough to create the WOW, no extra services are needed. Thank you.

  13. Hi Ed,
    I believe it was Shep Hyken who said we should compare ourselves to the best in the industry, not only our competition. Those who go above and beyond will always be the measure we judge against. And yes, they do create new expectations. I appreciate your comment, thanks.

  14. It is always nice to encounter a business that invests in their customers’ experience beyond just satisfying the expected transaction. Those businesses that go the extra mile differentiate. In primary work that I’ve conducted, I’ve seen first-hand the positive benefits dealerships experience when they go the extra mile. Customers will make new vehicle purchases from the dealership that treats them as a special customer. They will drive out of their way to have service performed at that dealership instead of one that is closer to their home.

    The question of whether customers should expect the extra mile is interesting. Others have correctly pointed out that there is a line where extras in the experience may cut into profitability. Given the current climate with staffing and supply shortages abound. We all need to be a little more patient and forgiving as customers.

    In this example consider the possibility that the service center is short staffed and the mechanics would be the ones required to vacuum the vehicles. If this were the case, then a two-hour service visit may have taken three or four hours. Also, we as customers can consider asking if a value-add desired service is included or could be. It is a lot easier to provide a satisfying experience if the provider understands the customer’s expectations. Would they have vacuumed the car if asked? Possibly and if not, they likely would supply a reason why they are unable to at that time.

    In the end, appreciating the wow experience and rewarding it with continued patronage should be embraced. Offering understanding for quality service that addresses objectives of the shop/visit, etc. may be a way that we can help reduce the collective added stress that is present across the US as we continue to navigate through the great resignation and supply chain issues and shortages.

  15. Hi Nicole,
    I agree there is a fine line between the cost of extras to enhance the experience and profitability. But in these times where service has suffered because of staffing issues, doesn’t it make sense to take an extra step, one as small as vacuuming the carpets, to try and “lock in” a customer who may realize “this business” does the right thing even under these challenging circumstances?

    Great service is difficult under any circumstances. But during times of need, we cannot hope the customers will be more understanding. They need comfort and reassurances too. Thank you for your comment.

  16. ”Should We Expect WOW Service?” – a good question! but Wow varies person to person and for service provider it is very difficult to understand the wow factor for every customer and it’s not possible every time as well.
    according to me 6 keys for good service are 1.Impeccable service 2.Reliable service 3.Personalized service
    4.Resourceful service 5.Polite service 6. Proactive Service.
    The key to all of these tactics is to be supportive in the truest sense of the word. If you have your customers’ backs , you can look forward to more business and more referrals. All that effort you put into landing customers will be paid back in spades.

  17. In my opinion, moments that matter to customer are the essence of customer experience.
    It is necesary to create unique experiences that can be differentiated and memorable enough not to be discarded in the consumer’s mind.

  18. Hi Sophia,
    I enjoyed reading your list of 6 and it’s true – the effort we put into creating a memorable experience, whether it’s a WOW or not, will help build return business. Thank you for your comment.

  19. In just three lines, Jose summarized the ultimate objective of XI (experience improvement). Amen. My only add, for multiple reasons, is to actively involve and include employees here.

  20. No.

    “Wow” – whatever it means – is always a surprise, something _unexpected_. If we expect it, there is no ‘wow’, just “OK, very well, this is what we expected.” – while ‘wow’ is… well,.. “Wow!” Shock and awe, we never thought you could do that!

    Sadly, like do many clichés in customer disciplines, the ‘wow’ currency has depreciated, after excessive use, to become just another routine degree in comparative scales like ‘good-better-best’. A pedestrian synonym of ‘excellent’ or ‘superior’, none of which are surprising (let alone shocking enough to invoke a “Wow!” exclamation).

    It has even become a verb – as in “Wow your customers with excellent service” (Note to self: check the Oxford dictionary of the verb thing is official)… This further diminishes the power of ‘wow’ and kills the sense of _exceptional_ and… unexpected.

    Time to find another word for that level of impact… Any suggestions?

  21. To my way of thinking, the whole idea of superior service is very much Kano Model and behavioral economics stuff. Providing an improved experience doesn’t have be off-the-charts extraordinary and ‘Wow!’, but if it is positive, and strategically differentiated enough when compared to other vendors or suppliers, it will stay in the memory and be consistent with ‘peak-end’ performance guidelines. The supplier or vendor exceeding customer expectations in this regard will be rewarded with loyalty and advocacy behavior.

  22. I went to my pharmacy on Saturday because I had a problem. She was too busy or having a bad day and referred me to my doctor’s surgery.

    I went to the pharmacy round the corner and she couldn’t do enough for me. “Leave it with me I’ll text you when it’s sorted, I’ve written urgent on the order.

    It really is that simple, somebody loses a customer and somebody else gets a new one.

  23. Hi Vladimir,
    You make a good point, yes. If it is expected then how can it be a “wow”? A vacuumed carpet wouldn’t shock and awe me but would have been appreciated. Thank you!

  24. Every Service oriented business should aim at giving a Wow service to its customers. This implies going extra mile to delight your customer, in this case ( clean carpet) .

    The ripple effect to this , is Customers will happily pay for your products or services without feeling cheated or thinking they can be served better anywhere else. You become their preferred choice no matter your pricing.

  25. Remember the old story of the two guys encountering a big grizzly bear? One starts putting on his shoes to run away. “You know you cannot outrun a bear,” said one guy. The other guy replied as he laced up his shoes, “I don’t have to outrun the bear; I just have to outrun you.” We don’t have to define “wow,” just figure out what makes the customers that you target select you over your competitors. Customers in an urban area do not swoon when their Starbucks coffee cup comes with a free swizzle stick and you got to select what type milk to add–whole, skim, etc. That same add to the coffee-getting experience in a rural diner might be viewed as a game changer for that market. It reminds us to start with understanding our customers to discern what factors, features, and perhaps whimsy make them loyal advocates. And to remember customer expectations are always changing. Today’s fad is tomorrow’s antique.

  26. Hi Evas,
    I agree, thanks. Serving customers better than the competition can justify a higher price. Benefits/services can outweigh price when the perceived value is viewed to be worth more than the price.

  27. Chip,
    You are so right. Every customer is different and what is a wow to one may be expected from another (maybe I fit into the latter category). I’ve always advocated that anticipating the customer’s needs is nothing special but is an expected service that a quality provider must offer.

    When we focus on what works (the surprise and delight actions that made a difference) we come to a better understanding of customer expectations and can adapt our actions to meet or exceed them.

  28. Hi Steve: Great post and great discussion.

    In my opinion, unless your brand promise is related to ‘service’, rendering a “wow service” is not the right strategy. Because it’s a “bad wow”: it creates false expectations and forgotten experiences, and dilutes your limited resources. For Ritz-Carlton, it is good and necessary for them to continue to provide “wow service” because it’s highly related to their brand promise.

    But for companies, like Ryanair, when “service” has nothing to do with their brand promises, delivering “wow services” creates unrealistic expectations and hence adversely affect customer satisfaction (assuming they can’t do it repeatedly); customers won’t recall their brands, because they cannot associate this “wow” with their brand promises (they are just doing charity work); and this will dilute their limited resources and weaken their core competence on ‘pricing’ or ‘product’.

    My two cents: Creating “wow service” without aligning with the company’s brand promise is a dangerous strategy that can have disastrous effects.

  29. Not having a good service only works (Ryanair) if you are cheaper than all your customers. You then can dominate the segment of people who are prepared to put up with it for the monetary savings. However you may end up with very tight margins and also many people (like me) avoid flying with you whenever possible. In effect you get low margins and low customer loyalty. This can be great in the short term but if customers expectations change because of the competition it can turn out to be not so good long term

  30. Hi Sampson,
    You make a good point: If you can’t deliver wow service repeatedly, it shouldn’t be done since it creates unrealistic expectations. Yes, that may be true. But for businesses that don’t usually offer any “wow”, a little effort may go a long way. And could be the first step in getting closer to understanding the value of doing more. At least, that is a goal to strive for. It’s great to hear from you, thanks!

  31. Hi Henry: Thank for responding to my comment. Just FYI: Ryanair has been one of the world’s most profitable airlines for years. In 2016, Ryanair was both the largest European airline by scheduled passengers carried, and the busiest international airline by passenger numbers.

    Companies compete on different things. Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersma describe three generic competitive strategies, or value disciplines: operational excellence (price), customer intimacy (service) and product leadership (product). Ryanair chose to compete on ‘price’ doesn’t mean they are a “bad guy” or doomed to fail.

  32. Hi Steve, thanks for your feedback. Just one question. Suppose the C-level executive of a non-service-focused company asks an enthusiastic CS head: “Why do we provide “wow service” when we can’t repeatedly provide it and generate unrealistic expectations?

    Then the CS head replied: “Yes, that may generate unrealistic expectations. But since we don’t usually offer any “wow”, a little effort may go a long way. And could be the first step in getting closer to understanding the value of doing more. At least, that is a goal to strive for.”

    Seriously, I bet that very few C-level executive of non-service-focused-companies would support to render a “wow service” that will dilute their limited resources and weaken their core competitiveness. Especially in the post-COVID period when it is difficult to make ends meet. Your thoughts?

  33. Sampson,
    Maybe I’m old-fashioned or unrealistic, but whether a business has limited resources or dealing with a challenging period (Covid), I see nothing wrong with finding ways to do more for your customers. Even if it doesn’t immediately add to profits or market share.

    Just as it doesn’t take more effort to be nice to another, it shouldn’t take much effort to train employees to identify ways to raise service standards or anticipate the customer’s needs. WOW doesn’t have to be big and flashy. And what a WOW is for me may be different for another.

  34. Yesterday, I drove to the grocery store. I do not remember anything about the trip and I have a great memory. I parked in their parking lot I am certain, but I could not tell you which spot. I got a grocery cart (they all look alike) and purchased what was on my shopping list. I recall a few items on that list, but I could be thinking about an earlier shopping list. I do remember the check-out line. It was an express line and they only have one. I could not tell you anything about the cashier whom I am sure was pleasant enough–not happy-go-lucky nor down-in-the-dumps. If you asked me about my grocery store you would get the same non-plus assessment you would get if you asked me about my power company or insurance company. If you asked me if I would recommend my grocery store, I would struggle to say anything beyond a functional description. I would have to say something like, “They are okay.”

    Customer experience is about memory-making. What makes memories is the granular stuff that makes up customer recommendations and marketplace reputation. So, we can debate “wow” or “no wow” all day long, but if you want your customers to remember you, especially in a world of choice, there must be pictures in your customers’ heads about their experiences.

  35. Chip and I have often cross-communicated and cross-written about he role of employees, particularly at the front line, in creating a positive emotional, memorable, branded customer experience: https://beyondphilosophy.com/delivering-unique-attractive-even-branded-customer-experience-lagniappe-company-can/ Doing this takes such organizations beyond OK to the world of superior, even exemplary,, where committed employees make the difference – for customers and themselves.

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