At Your Service: Surprise, surprise, surprise

According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, on average, a loyal customer is worth up to 10 times as much as their first transaction. In other words, they keep coming back and will spend more.

Customers are accustomed to a certain level of service from you. You work hard to bring consistency to your customer service experience and that is important. You need to uphold your standards as an organization. Every so often, however, it is nice to surprise your customer — in a good way.

You want them to know that they are working with a creative and fun organization that appreciates their business.

An example of a “surprise” you may have experienced is when you ordered something online and indicated you wanted the least expensive shipping method. Much to your delight, it came the next day. This is a nice surprise that built excitement and loyalty from you, their customer. Zappos, the popular online shoe company, often does overnight shipping at no charge. They don’t advertise it — they just surprise you with it.

You are not Zappos, however, your customers still like to be “surprised” with a positive and unexpected customer experience. Consider some of the following:

  • Handwritten note. Rarely do we send or receive a note of appreciation, especially one that is written by hand. There are many good reasons to send a note, such as becoming a new customer, providing a referral or a thank you after the rental. Whenever you send it, you know it will be appreciated and noted.
  • Customer spotlight. If you have a company newsletter, Facebook page or other type of social media, spotlight the customer. Talk about their business or event or something of interest to them. It does not have to be long — the recognition is what will make the difference. Get their permission and input before doing the work. They will love the attention and recognition.
  • A personal gift or charitable donation. Everyone loves swag — a hat or t-shirt. Perform that random act and send or drop off a small gift of appreciation. Some of the companies we work with will even make a contribution to a charity on behalf of a customer. This surprise is thoughtful and memorable. Your customers will share the experience with others.
  • Honor an achievement. If you see that a company or a customer has been recognized, send them a note. They will appreciate that you saw the information and took the time to bring it to their attention.
  • Keep track of dates. Imagine the customer’s surprise when they receive a birthday card or a note of appreciation after they achieve a milestone with your company. How about sending them something to recognize the anniversary of their first rental? It is a way for your company to stand out and it will mean something to your customer.

Of course, don’t over-do it. Then there is no surprise. For example, I would not suggest sending a handwritten note after every rental.

You can get creative with your surprises. Ask your employees to contribute ideas that are more applicable for your business and situation. These surprises don’t cost much in terms of time or money, but they will go a long way in building loyalty and setting yourself apart from your competition. It will position your location and company as a creative and fun organization with whom they like to do business.

Barry Himmel is senior vice president for Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, Ohio-based consulting company offering sales and customer service training, marketing and mystery shopping services for the equipment rental industry. He can be reached at 614-766-5101 or For more information, call 800-398-0518 or visit