Delightful customer experiences often start with something simple: an employee noticing a surprising or atypical customer need, and going out of their way to make sure that need is met. Here are five great examples from this year.
As you read these stories and look forward to 2016, ask yourself: what are some creative things our employees could try in order to delight our customers? And what can I, as a company leader, do in order to empower their creativity?
Air Canada Pilot Diverts Flight to Protect Passenger’s Dog
Near the beginning of a September flight from Tel Aviv to Toronto, an Air Canada pilot noticed a heating system malfunction that would drop temperatures in the plane’s cargo hold to below freezing once it reached the Atlantic Ocean. This wasn’t a significant problem — were it not for the fact that Simba, a 7-year-old French bulldog owned by one of the passengers, was in the cargo hold for his first-ever plane flight.
In order to protect Simba from the potentially fatal cold, the pilot made an unplanned landing in Frankfurt and arranged for the bulldog to board another, safer flight before continuing his own journey.
Simba’s owner was understandably grateful, but more surprising was the reaction from Air Canada. Despite the maneuver’s cost — a 75 minute delay and an estimated $10,000 in extra fuel — the company was supportive of its pilot’s decision, saying: “While we recognize this was an inconvenience for our customers, the overall reaction was positive, particularly once people understood the dog was in potential danger but safe as a result of the diversion.”
McDonald’s Staff Throw Surprise Party for Longtime Customer
For businesses based on routines and predictability at the front line, spontaneous instances of customer appreciation can be a challenge to pull off. This November, the staff of a U.K. McDonald’s did their part to overcome this trend when they threw a surprise birthday party for a 93-year-old longtime customer. The customer, who had become a daily presence at the restaurant after his wife died, particularly appreciated the party’s personal touches — which included a complimentary serving of his favorite meal and a bottle of whiskey the staff used their own money to buy.
Chubbies Co-Founder Sends Phone Number and Impromptu Gift to Customer
Chubbies, the online retailer known for its colorful ‘frat shorts,’ has earned a reputation for irreverence — including in its customer experience. This May, one Chubbies customer unpacked his new swim trunks, only to find an an unexpected extra gift from one of the company’s co-founders: a selection of random 90’s-era baseball cards. The cards came with a handwritten note from the co-founder in question, explaining the (amusing) logic behind the gift and offering his personal phone number in case the customer had any issues or suggestions later on. This mix of humor and attentiveness clearly convinced the customer that Chubbies truly appreciated his business.
Pret a Manger Empowers Employees to Give Away Free Coffee
This practice has actually been going on for several years, but it wasn’t until 2015 that it was announced publicly: Pret A Manger, the UK cafe chain, encourages its employees to give free coffee to customers whenever they see fit. Pret A Manger’s CEO sees the practice as an alternative to “complicated” loyalty card programs, and a way of ensuring that large numbers of customers — 28 percent, by his estimate — get a gift from the company at some point. And judging by the number of Pret A Manger customers who express their gratitude on social media, the strategy is working.
Target Employees Preserve Holiday Magic For Young Girl
This month, a Minneapolis mother visited a local Target with her nine-year-old daughter to pick up a replacement for the latter’s broken Christmas gift. When they arrived, the store’s customer service rep greeted the shopper’s daughter by name, and told her a story about how Santa had just visited to drop off the toy in question. And as they left the store, a cashier also greeted the shopper’s daughter, saying, “Are you Natalie? I just saw your new doll back there that Santa brought in.”
This effort by the two employees was appreciated by the mother, who had worried about reconciling her daughter’s belief in Santa with the need to visit a toy store. It also made a big impression on the young girl, who, in her mother’s words, was “beaming,” “excited,” and “on cloud nine.”