Creating a WOW Experience

Column by Tameka Montgomery

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By Tameka Montgomery
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Every year at the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center, we help hundreds of new and established small businesses launch, re-launch and adjust their trajectory to business success.

Oftentimes the mission is to find the weak link and strengthen it. Or it's to identify their strong suit and play it up. What nearly all businesses -- new or old -- need help with is delivering what I like to call a "Wow" experience. It's easy to overlook the value of exceeding expectations amidst all the commotion of running a business.

The truth is that if you can't afford not to pursue Wow. In our age of social media, providing great customer service -- or a Wow experience -- is vital. Bad news and tales of bad customer experiences travel at the speed of light.

Online customer rating sites such as Yelp and others can make or break your business. Twitter can be a huge amplifier for one customer to tell hundreds or thousands of "followers" what just happened to them, good or bad.

It is much easier to define your Wow as you launch your new business than it is to do so after something goes wrong. I am sure you have heard that it costs more to gain a new customer than it does to retain an existing customer.

Committing time and resources to enhancing your customer's experience is a worthwhile investment. Think about how you can create a "WOW!" experience for your customers.

Some people argue that customers don't know what they want. I disagree. While some customers may not always articulate what they want, they clearly know when they have had an experience that they did or did not like.

How to Wow

The KANO Model of customer expectations is a great tool for discovering your customers' needs so that you can provide them with a Wow experience. The KANO Model was developed by Japanese researcher Noriatki Kano. He identified three levels of what it takes to make a positive impact on customer satisfaction. These include the Musts, the Wants and the Wows.

The Musts

The Musts are the basic expectations a customer has based on your type of business. For example if you own a hotel, your customer's fully expect there to be a bed in the room. Or if you own a massage spa, your customer's expect you to have masseuses.

The Musts can also be referred to as "dissatisfiers." By themselves they do not satisfy your customer (the person staying at your hotel or interested in getting a massage), however, their absence will cause dissatisfaction.

The Musts are assumptions or unspoken expectations your customer has about the service or product she is seeking from your company. Not providing a Must will damage the chance of getting a referral or repeat business.

The Wants

The Wants are the qualities and attributes that will keep your business in the running, but they may not win you any customer satisfaction awards. Wants are higher level expectations and include any spoken customer expectations. Continuing with the hotel example, these could include better quality sheets and towels or early check-in times.

These can also be referred to as "satisfiers." The presence or absence of the Wants can either satisfy or dissatisfy your customer.

The Wows

The Wows produce the highest levels of customer satisfaction and include the features and properties that make your business a leader in your market.

These expectations are called "delighters" because they go beyond what the customer might imagine or ask. The absence of delighters will not hurt your customers' satisfaction level, but their presence will definitely improve the customer's overall experience.

A great "delighter" that I like to reference is the Doubletree Hotel, which always gives you a great-tasting chocolate cookie when you check in. A delighter for a clothing store might be free tailoring.

Wows are the key to securing new customers by word of mouth. Be aware, however, that over time, unspoken Wows become spoken Wants and possibly unspoken Musts.

In the case of Doubletree, I believe this chocolate cookie delighter has now become an unspoken Must. People checking in now expect to receive the cookie and would possibly be upset if no cookie was given.

To put your new business ahead of the pack and then to remain in the lead, you must provide your customers with the bests Wows, plenty of Wants and all the Musts.

The key to finding out your customers' three levels of need is to just ask or listen closely to their comments. Research your market and observe the best practices being done by your competitors or other businesses. Take some time to brainstorm ways you can create a Wow experience for your customers based on your budget and resources.

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