Out-of-context Surprises

One of our customers was in our office this week and told us about an really interesting thing they do for their customers. He said that they give their employees small index cards with their company logo, address and the employee's contact information. They will hand-write a quick note or thank you and write out the customer's address by hand and mail it to them. Evidently, they send these little notes all the time and some of their customers will leave them prominently displayed in their offices. We were talking about this at lunch yesterday and it reminding me of a recent entry on Creating Passionate Users, one of my favorite blogs. There were some really great ideas about what she calls "out-of-context surprises".

Any company with way over the top customer service (for that domain) is giving its users an unexpected, delightful surprise. Something to remember. Something to talk about. But even the subtle out-of-context surprise can trigger some neurons and brain chemistry. A reference to one movie slipped into the dialogue of…another movie. An easter egg hidden in a… logo (like the FedEx one). A bud vase in a…car. It's not about the thing–it's about the context in which that thing is expressed.

We give a lot of on-line demos to prospects and on-line training sessions to existing customers and they're very impersonal. We're planning to add the presenter's picture to the introduction slide in Live Meeting, but I think we can do better than that. Maybe we could actually ship a treat to their office, like some candy or cookies, etc. and make sure it arrives on the day of the demo. Surprises like that will leave a lasting impression.

We're also planning to change our remote support software, so you'll be able to see a picture of the support rep before you begin the session. This is completely above and beyond any phone or even "live chat" support I've used. It's much more difficult to be upset with a support rep if you're looking at their picture.

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