The Surprise Inside

Recently we invited our good friend, @simonslee, to speak to us about Customer Service.  His engaging and entertaining remarks were summarized in two simple words:  No Surprises! When it comes to superior customer service, there should be absolutely No Surprises.  We all nodded in agreement, and decided we had a new mantra for 2010.

Upon sharing (via Twitter) a few of Simon’s comments, I received an immediate response from another good friend, @amybhole.  Her response, too, was summarized in two words, “I disagree”.  Amy went on to say that “surprises are the cornerstone of excellent customer service”.

An interesting discussion via Twitter soon followed. What became obvious were two different perspectives on the topic of surprises. And both of them are equally correct.

When it comes to product fulfillment, certain specific expectations exist.  Product price, quality, and delivery date are just a few of the terms that allow no room for surprises. We expect that our FEDEX package will be delivered the next day.  If we are surprised, it is an unpleasant experience.

On the other hand, business (and life) is full of so many pleasant surprises. As Simon agreed while contradicting his original concept, “I find myself regularly able to do things to surprise customers that are spontaneous and unscripted”.  Amy adds that, “being small, independent and upscale gives us the flexibility to surprise even ourselves from time to time!”   And since 1912, Cracker Jacks has promised us the ever-present “surprise inside”.

So was @simonslee’s original challenge wrong? Was @amybhole right? (That question, by the way is rhetorical.  Everyone knows that @amybhole is ALWAYS right!)

Yes. And Yes.  As a product provider, we strive to eliminate unwelcome and unforeseen surprises.  Our processes must ensure that the products arrive on time, are of superior quality and are produced as indicated by agreed upon terms.  That is the bare minimum. As we continue to transform our business into one that provides services, we now look for spontaneous and unscripted ways to surprise clients.  But businesses cannot achieve those pleasant surprises until they have fully implemented the “No Surprises” program during the production process.

And at that point, and this is where I disagree with @amybhole (Lord, help me!), it will certainly come as no surprise to us.

What are your experiences with surprises (good or bad)?  Please share with us and you may be eligible to receive your own surprise.

Paul Strack is the president of CustomXM. Paul has become a leader in the print industry for his integration of social marketing into the company’s overall marketing strategy.

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