The Ingredients for Memorable Customer Experiences


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Think back to your last truly amazing positive customer experience. Do you still remember the person who made it exceptional? Can you picture their face or recall their name? Can you still hear their voice and feel the intention behind the conversation if it was a phone call or an online interaction? Now, let’s think about the opposite – a terrible customer service experience that frustrated and annoyed you. How did you feel about yourself after that interaction? If you can’t remember any interaction, positive or negative, don’t fret. It simply means you’ve mostly had bland experiences, not even worth remembering.

Overall, our expectations as customers are pretty low. When a brand meets our basic expectations, we’re over the moon because it seems rare. But what is needed to create magical above-average experiences that go above and beyond just the basics?

I’m a pretty tough customer. As someone who deals with customer experience daily, I’m hyper-aware of the little things that can make or break an interaction. It’s fascinating to me that people don’t always recognize the gems right in front of them. Customers give away so many clues that the people serving them seem to overlook. But then again, you don’t know what you don’t know, right?

Recently, I was pleasantly surprised by two experiences that both revolved around my son turning 13.

Let me share these stories with you.

My son wanted to spend his birthday money on an airsoft handgun. I know nothing about airsoft, so we had to go from store to store to find the right one. After visiting several shops and losing patience, I promised my son we could try one last store. This store had a wide variety of options, just like the others. But this time, the shop assistant engaged with my son. He asked him what he wanted and what price range he was looking at. He could tell my son was overwhelmed, so he encouraged him to hold each gun, take his time, and get a feel for it. Then, he explained the positives and negatives of each option, helping my son narrow down his choices. He connected with my son with jokes and stories and was genuinely excited about his final choice. In the end, my son left the store with a gun he was thrilled with, many targets and plastic bullets, feeling understood and supported. It was a great experience, and we will be returning to that store in the future.

Now, onto the second story. We recently went on a 4300 km road trip to Namibia, and my son’s birthday fell on the second last day. We had no access to shops, so I reached out to a guy named Aaron at the nature reserve we were staying at. I asked if they could possibly bake my son a cupcake or something to surprise him on the road the next day. Aaron called the chef, who was genuinely excited about creating a special surprise for my son. Later that evening, I was called to the kitchen, where the chef proudly showed me a picture of a giant cake he had baked for my son. They had even packed it up with a candle and matches, knowing I wouldn’t have thought to bring those. There was a real sense of excitement and pride in both the chef and Aaron, and it was such a memorable moment.

The magical ingredients for exceptional experiences

So, what’s the secret to these above-average experiences? Like the cake that was baked for Louis, it comes down to a few key ingredients:

1. Sincerity is crucial – customers can see through fake and insincere interactions. Be real, be interested and be intentional in wanting to help.
2. Ownership is also essential – going above and beyond the minimum expectation. Follow through on your promises.
3. Understanding is key – asking questions, listening to understand and being curious about solving the correct problems is critical. Be present and connect.
4. Passion and pride make all the difference. It shines through when someone takes pride in their craft and genuinely cares about people.

Step up the magic

To all the employees out there, I urge you to create memorable experiences. Be a character in your customer’s stories and make a real impact. Small actions can have a huge ripple effect and you can sprinkle some magic into interactions if you choose to do so.

And to all of us as customers, let’s raise our expectations a bit. If we give people a chance to serve us and expect more, they will often step up to the challenge. Let’s be generous in assuming that people are doing their best and demand that level of service.

Let’s reconnect as human beings. Not human doings! That is where the magic lies.

Mareli Smit
Hi, I'm Mareli Smit! I’m the Program Director for the Brand Warrior initiative at Brandlove, where we create transformative experiences for employees and customers. I also run our Customer Experience Mastery program, giving CX leaders the tools for success. I’m also the author of "It's About Time" a guide to designing your life. Outside work, I enjoy cooking, mountain trails, and relaxing by the beach. I'm passionate about guiding individuals and teams to success. Let's connect and start a conversation!


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