Success Monday: Developing ‘Customer Obsession’ Can Create ‘Wow’ Moments—the Good Kind

Customer service? Try customer obsession! Walter Rogers, is president, chairman and CEO of Baker Communications, a Houston-based management and sales consulting company that has been hired by some of the top corporations in the world. Over the years he has been on the customer end of things himself and he says that some companies will take care of you, and some won’t. And customers, like elephants, can have long memories.

“Beyond customer service, beyond customer satisfaction, there is a level of commitment to the customer that is sometimes described as “customer obsession.” More and more companies are learning that this is the secret to creating raving fans that will not just buy from you, but proactively advocate for you.

Satisfied customers move on to other suppliers. Raving fans stay with you forever—and draw others to you. “Wow” moments create raving fans—and can also create the opposite, depending on the type of “wow.”

Companies like Amazon have led the way in customer obsession. Amazon’s relentless focus on creating customer “wow” moments continues to change the market and the world. As an example, the Amazon Web Service (AWS) division has introduced 135 new services (and counting) while simultaneously introducing more than 50 price cuts. From personal experience, AWS helped one of my companies lower expense processing costs from $20K/year to about $1! That is a “wow” moment!

How do other companies exemplify (or not) this same customer-obsessed focus? Let’s look at three remarkable stories that create “wow” moments—two positive, and one not so much …

How you know you are wanted …

Like most people, I have homeowner’s insurance. It happens that mine is with GEICO. I called them recently to make a change to my policy, and found myself speaking with a friendly, professional, and engaged representative. I called to ask about increasing my coverage, and believe it or not, after reviewing my policy and umbrella he advised me against increasing my coverage. Despite the fact that he could have sold me more, he said I should be all set with what I had.

Imagine that: a seller that was more focused on my outcomes than selling his product/service. The insurance business is generally not known for endearing itself to customers and creating “wow” moments, but I was impressed with this rep’s customer focus.

As a follow-up, this efficient, pleasant rep happened to ask if I had any claims currently. I hadn’t made any … but his question prompted me to mention the recent loss of my Rolex Submariner watch, which my daughter had borrowed and subsequently lost.

Now, I didn’t think this was very likely to be covered by my homeowner’s policy, and even if it was, I doubted a claim would be approved. I’d had the watch for nearly a decade, and no longer had any receipts or papers to prove ownership or value—though I did have a recent photograph of my daughter wearing it.

To my surprise, I was immediately assured that the loss of the watch was covered by my policy, and the representative entered a claim for me on the spot, telling me to expect a call back within two days or so.

Imagine my delight when less than ten minutes later, I got a call back from a claims adjustor, who collected the required information to submit the claim to the final approver. Ten minutes! Not two days.

At the conclusion of that call, he advised me it would take a few days for him to receive approval. Well, guess what happened next? Not more than one hour later he called with a settlement amount for full replacement value.

Think about this: in less than two hours, my entire claim was completed and approved – even though it was supposed to take nearly a week.

In the end, I was told I would receive a check within a week. In fact, the check was in my mailbox within days—well ahead of schedule. Amazing. Talk about a “WOW” moment!

Imagine how much I like GEICO now, how happy I am to continue my relationship with them, and how many people I will tell this story to.

Keep in mind that all of this only happened because the representative took the time—on an unrelated call—to ask me about my situation and my current needs. The customer obsession demonstrated by GEICO absolutely floored me.

As the icing on the cake, a few days ago, I received notice that the premium on my homeowner’s policy had gone DOWN—this despite my filing a recent claim!

How to know you’re not wanted …

By way of contrast, let me tell you a story about another recent, but very different, experience with another company—a major hotel chain.

My company was planning a summit, and we made reservations for a number of rooms, as well as conference space, at a hotel in Austin that was part of a large hotel group. (I will leave the name out of this post.)

When planning a company gathering, we always make it a point to arrange lodging well ahead of time and notify attendees of the time and location, so there is plenty of runway for planning—and to help keep travel costs down, as airline pricing reliably increases closer to the travel date.

Accordingly, our employees were given the information for the resort location and began making travel arrangements. Airfare was booked and rental cars were reserved. Anticipating a pleasant stay, we started working on setting up meal reservations and team-building activities at sites located near the resort.

Imagine our surprise several weeks later, when the hotel unexpectedly gave notice that they would be closing for renovations during the week of our planned summit, and thus would not be able to accommodate our group. That’s not the good kind of surprise!

However, we live in the real world and we understand that things happen. Since they were part of a chain, we asked for their help in securing a venue in the same city at the same rate.

Imagine how our surprise became disappointment when they were completely unapologetic, offered no compensation for cancelling our reservations, and rather than assisting us, merely suggested we contact their downtown location to transfer our reservations.

Imagine how disappointment became frustration when the downtown location refused to accommodate us at the same rates we had arranged with the original hotel, or even offer a reasonable discount on their standard rates.

We were at a loss. Here we were with no hotel rooms, no conference space, and a number of employees who had already booked travel—some of it non-refundable—because the resort hotel had effectively shut us out with no warning. We explained the situation to the downtown hotel and asked if they could do anything for us.

Imagine our shock as their representatives simply shrugged at our predicament. They didn’t feel it was their problem, and their location was already busy.

Imagine how quickly we took our business elsewhere.

As an organization, we book thousands of room nights per year—none of which will be in this chain going forward. We likely will never use this hotel chain again.

How to know you are wanted again …

Of course, we were still faced with the problem of finding a host for our summit somewhere in Central Texas. Based on past positive experiences in the same area, we turned to Hyatt.

We called the Hyatt Hill Country Resort & Spa, and told them about our predicament. We explained that many of our airline tickets were already purchased, that we had many guests coming to town for the event, and that we had maxed out our budget. We asked if they could possibly help us out.

The sales manager, Jocelyn, asked what the rate was that we had budgeted for our previous arrangements, and we told her the number—an extremely competitive price. Nevertheless, Jocelyn said, “Let me talk to my management and explain what happened to you. I think they’ll want to help you out.”

That same afternoon, we got a call back from the Hyatt. Based on our recent conversations with the other chain, our expectations were pretty low.

To our surprise, Jocelyn said, “I have some good news for you! We’re going to match the rate you had with (the other hotel chain), waive all of our resort fees, and let you use our conference room for free for your meetings.”

We were floored! Frankly, we wanted to jump through the phone to hug Jocelyn. She had really gone to bat for us—and truly, the Hyatt folks understand customer obsession and going that extra mile.

We not only accepted their gracious offer, we are now making them our first choice for all of our events in the future. Where they could have taken advantage of our situation, their simple act of kindness will instead make our organization a raving fan for life.

Customer obsession creates obsessed customers

Notice the difference between these approaches. GEICO actively sought out the problem I had, and made it their own to solve. The first hotel chain we were working with, however, created a problem—and didn’t even attempt to help us work out a solution. Thank goodness Hyatt was willing to fix it!

The fact that a supposedly “luxury” hotel chain demonstrated such an uncaring, unresponsive, and callous approach to the customer relationship demonstrated clearly that they didn’t value our business. They didn’t care if we stayed with them or not. And as a result, they probably won’t have to worry about seeing business from any of us ever again.

GEICO and Hyatt, however, demonstrated their customer obsession over and over again—in their concern about our needs, in their responsiveness, and in their apparent habit of delivering results better and faster than they promised. “Under-promise and over-deliver” is always a formula for customer delight!

Those two companies have probably earned my business for life—and as you may have noticed, I’m spreading the word about their commitment to getting it right.

Ultimately, that’s what customer obsession really does—it creates customers who are obsessed with you. By fulfilling and surpassing expectations, you can turn your relationship with customers from a casual transaction into a passionate, mutual commitment—and create not just loyal buyers, but raving fans."

—Walter Rogers is the president, chairman and CEO of Baker Communications. As CEO, he has created and led businesses in 13 countries on 3 continents and is a recognized thought leader in the areas of sales and change management.