Cultivating the Customer Experience with Wonder Gestures

 In Branding, Business Artistry

Why is the Magic Castle Hotel the second highest rated hotel in Los Angeles next to the Four Seasons? After all, a room at this modest hotel pales compared to the luxury of the Four Seasons. Much of the Magic Castle’s success has to do with popsicles. Actually, it has to do with how the hotel staff creates moments of memorable – and talkable – delight. Whereas travelers might be loyal to the Four Seasons for reliable quality, other travelers love the Magic Castle – and they love to talk about it. 

You can design such memorable moments with your brand. Your doing so is a more sure way to grow your business over the long haul than much of what you hear. Much of the entrepreneurial jargon these days promises you that you can “crush it!” with “rapid growth” and “viral content” and “hockey-stick growth.” Many of these promises reak of 20th-century marketing-as-usual in new guise.

Don’t be fooled.

Your business and your brand are built a relationship at a time. Such a focus doesn’t mean your brand can’t scale. It just means your brand scales with integrity by creating meaningful experiences for your customers, clients, or brand community.

Build an Experience.

Cultivating a positive, long-lasting customer experience can start with Wonder Gestures. Wonder Gestures are small acts that bring unexpected delight, beauty, or self-recognition to someone. Wonder Gestures are becoming the essence of a new way of doing business drawn from an ancient way of making art.

As a creator, innovator, entrepreneur, or business owner, you want to create an emotional customer experience. After all, your brand by definition is – as we define it at Tracking Wonder – the total emotional experience people have with you and every touch point in your business. It’s also the set of associations people have with your brand and thus talk about your brand when you’re not around.

So what set of emotions do you want people to experience with your brand? Unexpected delight. Comfort. Connection. You want to evoke a feeling every time your customer interacts with you or your brand. We might buy because we need a product or service, but emotions drive us to return to the brand. Studies show that 61% of loyal customers go out of their way to buy from a specific brand and 75% of loyal customers will recommend a specific brand to friends and family.  

Finessing the power of surprise and pleasure requires more than being gimmicky and manipulative. A dose of empathy and a little knowledge of aesthetic experience are essential.

In the Tracking Wonder podcast episode “Experience Design to Build Wonder at Work” with Chris Flink, Executive Director of the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco, and Chip Heath, the Thrive Foundation for Youth Professor of Organizational Behavior in the Stanford Graduate School of Business, we discuss the importance of crafting experiences the way Magic Castle does. Relating to customers through experience can lead to customer satisfaction.

But how do you achieve this? What subtle “behind-the-scenes” acts can you do—other than prepare exceptionally well and deliver outstanding service—so that your customer exchange is smoother, more meaningful, and more memorable?

Consider the following ideas:

  1. Connect personally with your clients. Instead of researching your customers’ social media platforms to find out what their passionate about, propose a one-on-one meeting. In-person meetings are best, but video calls work too. Even the most trivial conversations could benefit from joy, wonder, and meaning-making. You also can have your customers or clients fill out a simple personal questionnaire and ask about their interests, passions, favorite artists, authors and thinkers, people who inspire them, if they prefer coffee or tea, when their birthday is, and so forth.

You’ll notice some large companies will send you special discounts or free drinks (Starbucks) the week or month of your birthday. It’s a small, but feel-good gesture that you can incorporate into your own business. (Our bookkeeper always sends me a personal birthday gift – usually related to how we spend.)

If you can, keep a file for each client. Knowing your client personally takes time. Takes notes. If your client prefers email to phone, make a note of that. The bigger your customer base, the harder this is to achieve, but it’s still possible. Keep a spreadsheet. Keep a running document, if you can. This takes time, of course, but giving intentional time to your customers leads to long-lasting relationships.

  1. Surprise them with gifts. It’s not unusual for my clients, team members, or vendors to receive a book, downloadable packet, or another item in their inbox or even their mailbox. I work with a variety of clients in different industries, and I recognize that they each have individual passions, unique perspectives–so I like to remind them that I appreciate what they do, what they are interested in, and who they are.

One season, each of my clients received a tiny handmade biodegradable box carefully wrapped in another box. Inside, I included a letter that reviewed the amazing creative and professional  work that my clients had done during that year. I wanted to recognize their efforts, praise their successes, and offer encouragement.

A good time to recognize your clients or customers is during the holiday season, but it shouldn’t be the only time. It could be a personalized card, a small gift, or something equally as memorable to your client; Wonder Gestures bring feelings of joy and recognition to your community members–and they will be remembered. One of our clients sends prospects a Felt card. The Felt app allows you to create unique, one-of-a-kind cards. You can avoid the paper and glue and have the cards sent straight from your phone, but still use your own handwriting and your own photos to give them a personal touch.

  1. Relinquish some of the control to your clients. I don’t mean hand over your executive decisions, but remind your customers that they are a part of a community. They aren’t just a customer. They are a community member. Give your customer the opportunity to speak up, to be a part of the business, and to shape its future. The business-customer relationship will, afterall, be the defining factor in your business’ success.

If your business is developing a new app, find a methodical way to enlist them in a beta trial.  If you’re working on a book, you could show two book covers to your audience to see which is preferred. If you are thinking of adding another season to your podcast, you could ask your customers what they’d like to learn more about.

  1. Add Wonder Gestures to your schedule. Each Sunday, I take time to hone my weekly schedule and priorities. Part of that planning is imagining—literally imagining—each client with whom I will have an exchange that week.

I review each client’s file, feel again what excites me about the respective project and what must be exciting the client, and also try to imagine where—existentially and psychologically—that client is in the creative project phase. If I can bring comfort, support, or encouragement to my client, I will. I am deliberate in this act.

And if you think it counterintuitive to “design” for a Wonder Gesture, then you miss the secret element of great art I’ve touched on here—the artist’s great effort to create an effortless, enjoyable, memorable experience for an audience.

Bring delight to your community.

Don’t lose sight of personal connection. Too often, we stick to our routines. We engage online, forgetting about the individuals on the other side of the screen. Get back to the heart of the relationship and when you engage, make the exchange delightful, if not delightfully surprising.

I aim to bring a sense of wonder to each exchange, whether it be on email, phone, or video call. For clients who make the trek to our farmhouse studio, they have a cup of hot tea waiting for them. Like a bartender for the tee-totaler, I try to remember what kind of tea each client prefers. I also periodically have a book perched on the conference table that I think will pique a client’s curiosity.

What subtle “behind-the-scenes” acts can you do—other than prepare exceptionally well and deliver outstanding service—that will make the exchange that much smoother, more meaningful, and memorable for both parties? I don’t always have answers, but just raising the question and spending time thinking and feeling it, primes you to be more cognitively and emotionally present for your clients.

Honing that ability—to see and bring out the good in others—can bring joy, wonder, and meaning to your tribal exchanges. So, I ask again: How do you go out of your way to surprise individual clients or customers, to bring memorable delight to their experience with you?

Ready to join a community of professionals, entrepreneurs, creatives, teachers, coaches, and consultants who are bringing their own Wonder Gestures to the world? I invite you to join our Tracking Wonder Quest Community if you’re looking for a collaborative pack to share ideas with, a community to lift you up, offer feedback and help you perform your best work.

In our community, you’ll gain weekly inspiration, access to special meetups, and opportunities to find allies online and in your region of the planet. Our free community is dedicated to doing business from a place of authenticity and wonder.

Join us on Facebook too.

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