Wow Customer Experiences – Defined and Delivered


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In my book, The New Gold Standard, I defined “wow” experiences as “unique, emotionally engaging interactions that go beyond expectations and are readily recounted.” As a result of that definition, I’m often asked to give examples of how “wow” service is different from good service. So here is a beyond expectation, emotionally engaging, and easily related story…

I have the good fortune of working with some truly amazing leaders. For example, I am consulting on a multi-year customer experience project with Bob Yarmuth the CEO of the Sonny’s Bar-B-Q Restaurant Franchise. As you may know, Sonny’s is the preeminent southern bar-b-q restaurant chain founded in Gainesville, Florida.

Recently, I became aware of a simple but “wowful” service experience delivered by Christie Schatz Director of HR for Sonnys. Christie was perusing customer communications when she ran across an email from a loyal customer who had recently moved into an area of Texas that did not have a Sonny’s restaurant. In the email, the customer asked if Sonny’s had any plans of expanding into his community. Christie responded that unfortunately no plans were in place at this time and then she went on to advise him that he could order Sonny’s Bar-B-Q sauce online and it could be shipped to him in Texas.

As of that point, Christie’s response represented good service. As a senior leader she was involved, responsive, direct, informative, and helpful. In essence, her timely communication clearly met the expectations of most people. But here’s where the “wow” comes in. After she sent the email, Christie felt that she could easily do more so she called the customer, confirmed his mailing address, and let him know she would be sending Sonny’s sauce to him – WOW.

People who have a difficult time understanding the value of “wow” might say why would she do that? The man can’t even frequent Sonny’s stores if there aren’t any in his new area. Or maybe the skeptics would raise a scalability or fairness issue, “you cant’ send sauce to everybody, so why do it for this guy?”

In essence, Christie cost effectively did what was right for this engaged customer in that moment. The byproduct of that relatively small act of caring certainly got my attention – thus I am doing this blog which will also be turned into a podcast and a short Youtube video.

From what I have gathered, the customer has since repeatedly expressed gratitude and will likely share his wow story with individuals who do live near Sonny’s franchises. Furthermore, I suspect that customer will be more inclined to buy sauce online and/or advocate on behalf of the brand.

So that’s my wow story….what’s yours?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Michelli, Ph.D.
Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., an organizational consultant and the chief experience officer of The Michelli Experience, authored The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the best-selling The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.


  1. Hi Joseph

    Heard a good wow story today.

    My mom recently took my 82 father to see a specialist in infectious disease. My old man has been feeling run down and no one can figure out the problem. Getting an appointment was very difficult (3 weeks out) but the receptionist kept my moms number and promised to call if there was a cancelation. They got in and were able to get there on short notice. After the appointment my mom raved about the dr. When I asked her why, she didn’t hesitate “he took his time and asked us a ton of questions” (unique – especially for a busy specialist), “he really seemed to care – he told us that he was going to do everything he could to make dad feel better” (emotionally engaging) “and the receptionist was so helpful in getting us in.”

    To me the bottom line is that this dr made both of my parents feel special – its more than he was just doing his job. They felt special because he was generous with his time, but also because he was present and in the moment with them. No small trick considering that he was stacked up with patients all day. Seems to me the trick for every business is to make their customers feel like they are getting something special. It that sense, the guy with the BBQ sauce was no different than my mom.


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