You Gotta Protect the "Wow"

Years ago, H-P (Hewlett Packard) asked my company to make a few prototypes that were needed for a national sales meeting. Our standard lead-time was 6 weeks. They wanted it done in 2 weeks. They were willing to pay us overtime and if we had asked for an "expedite" fee, they would have paid that too. My Boss said no, it will cause other jobs to be late and I'm not letting a big company tell me how to run my business. So, I looked at my Boss and asked him: "remember when your Dad started the company and you worked out of a tiny office in Manhattan. How would you have reacted back then"?

"Well, we would have worked 24 hours to deliver and we would have tried real hard to beat their deadline". This was a pivotal and transforming moment in our company's history - it was the day we changed from a family-owned-company to a business that was focused on service excellence.  We measured ourselves internally and by customer surveys. We were all over customer complaints, resolved them quickly and implemented changes. We were a small company with revenues in the few millions per year, but everyone in the industry thought we were a $40 million dollar company. We were everywhere and everyone talked about us.

How often do we go back to purchasing something because we liked the experience the first-time, only to find out that it was a "first" and nothing more.  Customers smile from ear- to- ear when they experience good product or service, but they will go out of their way to tell everyone they know when they don't!You see, "you gotta protect the Wow", you can't afford not to.

So back to my Boss. As he was replying to my question, he looked me straight in the eye and began to smirk. I didn't have to say "got you". When he heard his own excuse he was embarrassed. We got the order from HP and we were an important part of their new technology but the lesson we learned was truly worth millions of dollars in the coming years.

You see, HP came to us in response to a creative promotion we developed called "PPS" - Priority Prototyping Service. It promised a 2-3 weeks turnaround, compared with an industry average of six weeks or more. It was a big "Wow" and our business pipeline was full. But when HP came back, remembering our program and "Wow" , we couldn't deliver -- we were too busy!

There is nothing worse than hooking a new customer with a promise and failing to deliver when they come back. No one wants to feel cheated, it's wasting their time and they will never trust you again. Losing customers in my book is "business suicide".

The Tipping Point for my Boss, realizing that we can never afford to be too busy and turn customers away, got him to invest in new technology and staff that will allow us to continue and grow without compromising "what got us here". Our business was growing at close to a million dollars per year and we never looked back.


How often do we experience "Wow demolition" in our daily lives as shoppers. Like the idiotic, water-boarding torture when you present a coupon and the teller or owner reads you the riot-act for not complying with the small print".  The purpose of coupons (or promotion) is to get customers to come to you! And when they do, smile, thank them for coming, give them what they want...and in the likely event that they are not complying with the stupid small print, you should say "M'am, you are supposed to buy two for this price, but don't worry about it. We love having you here -- what else can I do for you"?

BLOG Take-Aways:

  • Remember the day you opened up and how you stayed up all night worrying that no one will come. Now do everything you can to never feel like that again
  • Don't get complacent when it comes to customers' experience. 
  • If you found your "Wow" ways to differentiate yourself, make sure you deliver 100% of the time.
  • Create a system and process that guarantees your performance. Get everyone on your team trained. Use the "secret shopper" method, invite feedback and keep your finger on your service pulse.
  • Talk to your customers, tell them you care what they think. They are the best source for more "Wow" in your business