thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

What Does WOW Mean?

By on September 22, 2010

Fireworks_lrgAre you tired of being told to WOW your customers? There is certainly nothing wrong with the philosophy. You might use other words--delight, dazzle, amaze, etc.-- but the overriding idea remains the same: to deliver a great experience. But what does WOW really mean?

I had a conversation recently with a manager from one of my suppliers, who shared with me that his corporate office wants his people to WOW their customers. However, his employees are not sure what this means because corporate has never defined it very well. Undoubtedly, without some guidance, the term can be interpreted in many ways and could vary depending on the needs of each customer. The employees were not unwilling, but they were certainly confused due to lack of direction.

In order for WOW to work, it's important that everyone is on board with the concept, especially executives. Most often, senior management sends a message that "We are going to keep everything in place from our product-centric environment – products, services, policies, procedures, inflexibility." But, by the way, in spite of these restrictions, make sure that you delight the customer.

Many times these front-line employees are hampered by less-than-optimum systems and procedures that prevent them from delivering a customer experience that is intuitive. Or, if they offer ideas for improvement, they are told by management all the reasons that change cannot happen. Isn't it disingenuous to tell front-line employees to go above-and-beyond when senior executives are missing the bigger picture?

An authentic WOW environment only happens when it is rooted in a strong value-driven culture throughout the organization. In Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh details the elements of the Zappos organization, which is legendary for providing amazing WOW experiences. But they have worked hard to develop this mindset internally. They have a Culture Book which is anchored by 10 Core Values. The first core value is Deliver WOW Through Service. They do this because of the freedom they give to their employees to "Be Real and Use Your Best Judgment." This is powerful. They go even further and celebrate great service by telling the stories of WOW experiences to everyone in the company. It is a great model.

If you are going to "make WOW a verb," as Zappos does, change your culture from supplier-focused to customer-focused. Then each employee will WOW the customer because it is clear to everyone what that means.

Photo by Jon DeJong

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