We hear that great service is about giving your customers what they want, when they want it and doing it politely and with courtesy.

But what about creating great customer experience by doing the unexpected?

Why would you do that? How do you do that? What would you do?

Well firstly let’s look at the why.

Quite simply it’s about getting your customers to be loyal to you and to recommend you to their friends and family. With that loyalty and recommendation then your business will thrive.

We live in an age when price is simply not the main driver of why someone would buy something from you. Most customers are now savvy enough to shop around. They have the internet in their pocket and can quite quickly compare prices of the same product in many different stores at once.

We also live in an age where a review can be posted online instantly, be it on Facebook, Trustpilot, Trip Advisor or any other online site. So getting your customers to post story of great experience is key.

When good customer service has become normal, how do you go about getting that all important great review or recommendation?

The easiest way is by doing something unexpected. Something that grabs people’s attention, something that makes someone stop and think “what happened there?”. Something that makes that one customer feel special, like you’ve done something that no other customer will get that day. Something they will want to tell their friends about.

Waitrose in Guernsey often get some great comments on the Guernsey review sites for doing things outside of the ordinary. Giving customers free flowers and chocolates as they are walking out of the store is something I’ve spotted them doing recently.

But why give stuff away for free? Well let’s have a look at the above in more detail.

Most of the time, the flowers are given away at the end of the day, within the last hour of the store being open. So they are probably going to be taken off display at the end of the day anyway. They are given to customers who are leaving the store, so they aren’t losing a sale, the customer has already had to walk past the flower display, and they haven’t bought flowers. So they’re not likely to go back and buy them once they’ve been through the checkout.

But why would you give away the flowers? Well it rewards the customer for shopping at Waitrose, everyone likes something for free, it makes them feel special and they’re likely to tell their friends that they got free flowers from Waitrose. So not only does it make the customer feel great and more likely to be loyal, it also lets other customers who hear the story know that Waitrose do appreciate their customers.

But what about the cost? Well chances are the flowers would be taken off display at the end of the day and dumped even if they do have a few days of enjoyment left in them. So really there’s no difference in cost but lots of benefit in terms of goodwill and happiness!

Surprising your customers doesn’t necessarily have to be with free product, it could be something as simple as doing something unexpected. Paying the customer a compliment or offering to carry their goods to the car, maybe keeping their kids entertained whilst they browse the store or following up on a purchase by giving the customer a call to see how they are getting on with their purchase. Whatever it is you think will surprise the customer and be unexpected.

The key to all of this is empowering your team to take the initiative. Give them permission to do something that surprises your customers (in a good way, not jumping out from behind a display and scaring them).  For some business owners, this will take a bit of a leap of faith to trust them to do the right thing, but give them that trust and see what happens.