Your Customers:
Wow Some – Fire Some

Customers want to be wowed. The best part: Once they are, it generates loyalty.

Here’s how three companies have surprised and wowed customers in the past year — and how you can turn their unique ideas into outstanding customer experiences this year:

1. They never saw it coming

MasterCard wanted to move away from its long-standing idea of helping customers celebrate priceless moments and to a new position of helping customers create priceless experiences.

Sure, the financial services company built marketing and advertising around that theme. But they also delivered some surprising customer experiences through its “Priceless Surprises” program. In some cases, they sent customers digital downloads of songs. In another, much bigger case, they arranged for Justin Timberlake to visit a customer’s home, according to MasterCard CMO Raja Rajamannar. Similarly, they created an opportunity for some super Usher fans to meet the singer.

They’ve also helped customers make travel plans and greater contributions to causes.

Tip for you: MasterCard was able to set up extraordinary meetings for customers because of the listening its employees did on social media. Those employees interacted with customers and asked them about their interest in certain singers. When they spotted super fans through social media, they knew who to surprise. Monitor what your customers love on social media for ideas on unique ways to surprise and delight them.

2.  Make everyone an owner

Ace Hardware employees know a lot about the business — the good, the bad and the better. Leaders regularly update them on what’s happening behind the scenes and answer questions until they’re sure front-line employees understand everything.

Why do they care about those details that much? They want employees to act like they own the place. If they think like owners, they’ll give amazing customer service, according to the company.

Ace employees make decisions on the spot to keep customers satisfied. Because they’re deeply knowledgeable about how the company or store is performing, they know the best route for everyone involved when helping customers.

Tip for you: Spend more time covering the numbers in employee training. Help employees understand the costs behind your products, services and processes. When employees understand that, they can make educated decisions on how to satisfy and wow customers.

 3.  Do just a little more

Just a little more effort goes a long way. Take this as proof. It’s from Bob Simmonds, VP of domestic travel operations at Disney Destinations, who first gives a shout out to the United States Postal Service: Envelopes that come through the mail that have nothing more than a child-like crayon-inspired depiction of Mickey Mouse on them are delivered to Disney.

The postal service doesn’t have to deliver them (or respond to Santa letters, for that matter), but it consistently does it. For Disney’s part, when there’s a return address available with a letter, a response is sent back from Mickey.

Tip for you: Follow up. One of the biggest reasons the relationships between customers and businesses take off is because someone follows up. For some things — say, a big complaint, a major problem or first-time purchase — customers expect a follow-up. For others — say, routine sales or small complaints — they don’t expect much. But they’d be impressed if someone called to make sure they received the shipment alright or if the quick fix worked for the long-term.


 Firing customers might seem unthinkable. But giving the boot to some customers could actually help your bottom line.

Not to mention the positive effects it could have on the morale of the people who have to deal with your most difficult customers throughout the year.

“When you disconnect your business from … toxic energies, your employees will be happier, you’ll be happier, and everyone will be able to focus their time and energy on more productive, more rewarding tasks,” says Michael Houlihan, author of The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People.

Of course, you don’t want to just drop customers who annoy you with occasional complaints or make a loud fuss from time to time. In fact, customers who point out inconsistencies or errors are often your most loyal, profitable customers: They complain because they care.

But a smaller percentage of customers can be troublesome, Houlihan says. Here are seven customer types you’ll want to consider letting loose in 2016. Doing so can give your customer experience professionals more time and a fresh positive attitude to help your loyal and new customers.

1.  Abusers

These customers seldom have a kind word. They use demanding — and sometimes vulgar — language.

“I find that a popular phrase with Abusers is always ‘or else,’” says Houlihan. “They yell at you or your employees that you better do such and such or else.”

It’s unlikely that you’ll ever please them, and they’ll keep sucking the life out of your front-line employees.

2.  Unhappy campers

You and anyone who has contact with these customers might deliver great work time and again, and unhappy campers will still find something wrong. They complain constantly and are never satisfied.

“Unhappy Campers may not be the worst clients on your list, but they can be exhausting,” says Houlihan.

It’s tough for front-line employees to remain positive when Unhappy Campers are never happy.

3.  Pot stirrers

Forget wrecking one person’s day. These customers manage to bring down a whole group of employees with a few words. They will say bad things about one employee to another or cut apart the work an entire team did.

“If they can play everyone against each other, they think they may be able to work out a better deal or keep everyone scared enough that they’ll do everything they ask,” Houlihan says.

Front-line employees know not to point fingers at colleagues — instead they take responsibility and find solutions. However, Pot Stirrers will point fingers, spread blame and cause problems.

4.  Cheapskates

They always ask for a deeper discount, extra promotion or special treatment at a cost to your company. They threaten to leave for a better deal. And just to keep them, you might already be giving them discounts that aren’t profitable for your organization.

“Of course, it’s okay to give clients a discount here and there,” says co-author Bonnie Harvey. “But Cheapskates have no problem bleeding you dry.”

Cheapskates often make front-line employees feel like their feet are being held to the fire, which isn’t good for morale.

5.  Hoopsters

These customers expect front-line employees to jump through a hoop to meet their expectations. And when one expectation is met, they hold up an even smaller hoop, waiting for the next best thing to happen. They often make unreasonable or last-minute requests that put stress on employees and processes.

“You might be able to rein them in by setting boundaries—for example, ‘no changes can be made within 24 hours of a deadline’ — but if they repeatedly breach those boundaries, it might be time to pass them on to your competition,” Houlihan says.

Front-line employees will become exhausted working with these customers.

6.  Sponges

They think they’re your only — or most important — customers and will suck up all the time they can from your front-line employees. They call, email and post on social media constantly. They might even request many meetings from salespeople.

“You put much more into your interactions with Sponges than you get back,” says Harvey. “They eat up valuable time with unimportant tasks and worries that keep you from servicing other, more profitable clients.”

7.  Liars

Some customers are two-faced. They will exaggerate the truth or conveniently forget key details to get what they want. They try to change or work around rules that govern your customer relationships.

“You never know where you stand with these kinds of clients,” says Houlihan. “And that can cause a lot of unnecessary frustration and confusion. It becomes difficult for you to make the right decisions for them. You end up constantly second-guessing yourself or wondering when they’re going to turn everything on its head.”