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Here at the fabl we continually strive to surprise and delight our clients – it’s one of our core standards. However, we do come across folk who don’t understand the concept.

Being an old fart helps to explain….

I first came across the phrase in the early 80’s whilst working for Ford. Prior to the launch of the new shape Escort the biggest talking point in the battle between the Cortina and the Cavalier was that Ford were losing sales by not having a radio cassette player as standard in the base and L versions of their cars. Reps had a choice and they went for the Cavalier….and the cassette player.  Trivial you might think – but critical to sales.

Ford learnt from that and when launching the “new shape” Escort they incorporated “surprise and delight” features, the most obvious being the interior light – that slowly faded out when the door was closed. Oh so classy in a bog standard car – and the clincher of many a car sale.

It was explained to me by a Ford Research bod as something that would bring a smile to the face of a child…and I’ve never forgotten that. I freely admit to loving childish things….always have, always will.

Fast forward to modern times and we see “surprise and delight” tactics being followed by clever organisations everywhere.  Starbucks using ‘Augmented Reality’ so customers can interact with their coffee cups. O2 targeting their clients through social media on Valentine’s Day.

But it can be simpler things too.

My last Amazon order arrived the next day – even though I’d opted for standard 3-5 day delivery. My local garage – KB Tyres at Barnoldswick –  quoted me a very competitive £300 for a cam belt change and then handed me a bill for  £236…including an oil change.

These are all things that are remembered – and commented upon. Customer satisfaction is one of the surest ways of generating new business…and of keeping existing clients.

But, how many times have we experienced the exact opposite of “surprise and delight”?

Have you EVER been treated courteously at a Budget airline check in?

Have you EVER had a pleasant experience when calling BT…..British Gas…..Eon…..?

Have you EVER had a surprise and delight moment when trying to order a Sky movie?

Have you EVER enjoyed calling your Local Council?

Have you seen the link? It’s because these organisations have got to a position where we are practically forced to deal with them – and where a customer is typically viewed as a nuisance.

But, there is another aspect of “surprise and delight” that is sometimes overlooked – employee satisfaction.

What a difference it is to work in an organisation when a customer calls, laughing because of something you or your company has done. People think we’re crazy at The fabl because we have a chandelier in our break out area; plastic dogs looking out the window; a twirly chair thing in the middle of the office and a table tennis table in our boardroom. But, when they’re twirling in that chair and laughing – we’re happy – and happy people look after their colleagues; clients and the bottom line.

The opposite is a killer. It kills business; kills productivity; kills relationships. It also kills people. In France, France Telecom / Orange are reviled. Go into any one of their stores and you are treated with distain. Discourtesy is the norm. Their call centres are a national joke.

Not surprisingly, staff in the stores and call centres receive very little warmth from clients, which is a terrible place to be…..perhaps explaining why suicide rates within France Telecom has been headline news….

So, as we enter Lent – give up any bad habits you might have and resolve to “surprise and delight”.