The surprising way to turn customers into raving fans

Customer focus as directon on a compass for a satisfaction concept (3D Rendering)

One sure way to build your business is by unlocking the power of unexpected small pleasures for your clients.

To stand out in the marketplace, you need to do what your competitors are not. We all expect a certain standard of service but rarely receive it. What was the last experience that left you impressed with the level of service that you received?

Often it is just from getting the job done or receiving the product on time. But that should be the least that a business can do for you. It is when you are surprised by the level of service or a small, unexpected delight that you may become a raving fan. These small surprises can turn your experience into next-level service.

“Raving fans send you the best referrals, stay loyal and do a large part of your marketing for you.”

Despite the problems COVID-19 has caused, the Australian economy is strong. There is pent up demand and potential customers have money to spend. This is most evident in the building and trades area. Despite labour and material shortages, it is booming. Part of this is because consumers have not been spending on hospitality and travel, but it’s also because so many working from home have more time to spend, research and plan.

It is, therefore, important that your small business stands out, retains your current customers, regains past customers, and develops leads for new ones.

Good clients are loyal and easy to deal with. But how do you turn them into raving fans? Because raving fans send you the best referrals, stay loyal and do a large part of your marketing for you. They are well worth cultivating. The best way to make a customer or client rave about you is to delight them with small surprises. Most people tend to enjoy surprises, just so long as they are carefully planned to benefit them. The surprise must be relevant to their needs or business. By pleasing an existing or potential customer, you encourage them to enjoy more of your company’s work and refer you to their friends and business associates.

But how does a company go about generating surprises that delight its customer base?

1. Provide more than expected

If you just complete a job or provide goods or services as expected, this does not surprise or delight customers. It is the small additional surprises that make a memorable difference. I like to provide additional information or tasters of other products that we have. It is often appreciated if you provide a sample of one of your other products along with what your client or customer has ordered. It not only introduces them to another one of your products but also the small surprise of something that they did not order provides a welcome experience that differentiates you from your competitors. For example, one night in the restaurant, a lady was having trouble deciding between two main courses. She eventually decided on one after I provided loads of information on the produce, the methods and the style of each dish. When the main course was delivered, I organised for the chef to provide a small taster of the other dish, so that she could experience both.

She was absolutely surprised and delighted and said that she had never experienced that before. She became not only a regular but also a raving fan – and we never had to provide a taster again.

2. Demonstrate their return on investment (ROI)

Make sure the client can see their ROI by clearly demonstrating or discussing the impact with them. Show that the outcome is critical to you and that you want to make sure they see and understand the benefit they have derived. It’s important to follow up and make sure the customer is totally satisfied with the product and service. This provides not only valuable feedback, but also the chance to rectify any problems and, in many cases, get another order.

3. Celebrate with them

Take the time to celebrate their wins, not just yours. If there have been positive results, then celebrate with them. It may even be unrelated to the work that you have done with them. You may notice that they have won an award or a new contract. Send them a letter of congratulations or, better still, ring them. Celebrations can include small gifts, handwritten notes, or just taking the time to have lunch and brainstorm. Just celebrate!

4. Communicate

Keep in touch, and surprise them with other relevant information or things you can do for them. Invest in their success with as much contact as possible – without being annoying.

Make sure you get back to them as soon as possible if they contact you. Or at least send a reply letting them know when you can. The number of times friends and colleagues have complained about suppliers not getting back to them astounds me. Do they want the business or not?

In today’s world, where we all juggle competing demands on our time and attention, clients and prospects are delighted when they feel a real, singular effort has been made to keep the channels of communication fluent and timely.

I was recently impressed when a builder was doing some work at my house. Each night on his way home he would ring me (after sending a photo) with an update on the progress, any issues that he had and the general state of the work. It was so simple but I was impressed he took the time and it developed a stronger element of trust. Yet it was so easy for him – a quick photo on his mobile phone followed by a phone call on the way home in the van. But it was this small surprise that delighted me and, of course, I spread the word.

5. Exceed expectations

While it may sound cliche, underpromise and overdeliver. More important than delighting a customer by agreeing to custom requests and accelerated timelines is making realistic commitments and then beating them. Also, keep your customer informed of your progress in meeting those commitments so there are no unpleasant surprises. When providing a completion date, I always set a time that I know that I can beat. My client is then really impressed with the early delivery. More often than not, they’re used to having to chase up suppliers and listen to their excuses.

6. Look for, and solve, a pain point

Ask what their concerns or problems may be and provide a solution. Don’t just try to sell your product, delight them by taking the time to find out their pain points and offer a solution.

7. Develop a relationship

Surprise and delight prospects and customers by connecting with them and making the relationship about more than just work transactions. Find out about their hobbies, interests, family and even aspirations. Take them out for lunch or a drink. Get to know them.

8. Be aware of their activities

Follow their activities in the media or Facebook, or occasionally google them. Better still, contact them with a simple, ‘How’s things?’

It is the small surprises and delights that make you stand out from your competitors. They make your business memorable and show that you care about more than just making a sale. It is the way to make raving fans.

This article first appeared in issue 36 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine